Google’s Android Auto: “Look What I Can Do!”

Roger Lanctot is Associate Director of Strategy Analytics, and a thought leader in the connected-car space. He is an influential voice in the field of automotive infotainment systems, and safety, in cars of the present and future. This article was originally published at Strategy Analytics

stuart dancing 300wAmong actor Michael McDonald’s more unusual credits is the role of “Stuart” on the television program Mad TV. Stuart is a precocious child of indeterminate physical or mental age who insists on getting the attention of family members and friends by performing meaningless tricks. (An example – apologies in advance for anyone who is easily offended – warning, adult male sort of dancing in underwear:

In the automotive industry we are currently afflicted with tech giants Apple and Google more or less engaged in similar behavior attempting to extend their mobile franchises into the dashboard – because they can. In other words, neither Apple nor Google is doing anything especially remarkable or groundbreaking and, therefore, fall in the category of: “Look what I can do!” (This is the statement “Stuart” makes as he dances pointlessly.)

Google launched Google Automotive Link/Android Auto recently, following Apple’s CarPlay launch by a few months. Google asserts that cars using its new solution will be hitting the road before the end of the year. The company also noted the participation and support of 40 car makers and suppliers representing 25 brands. That should also sound familiar (see CarPlay launch).

GAL is nearly identical in appearance and performance to Apple’s CarPlay. Of course no one dares to question Apple’s, Google’s automotive cred because, after all, we’re talking about Google and Apple. No one wants to be caught out on the wrong side of either of these two heavyweights.

So, allow me.

roger lanctot contributor logo 360wWhat Google did not want to talk about today were Android’s challenges regarding boot time and power consumption, two significant deficits of great concern to auto makers once Google decides to bring Android into the dashboard and not merely enable smartphone integration. (At least Apple has steered clear of any intention to embed its software in cars.) Google also did not want to talk about National Highway Traffic Safety Administration user interface guidelines or any other globally relevant automotive UI limitations.

Also missing was a description of Google’s API strategy and Google also glossed over the fact that the voice recognition solution on offer is hosted and therefore dependent on a wireless connection. In fact, this same limitation is shared by CarPlay. (Again, at least Apple has shown some awareness of this shortcoming with the recent acquisition of Novauris which may enable on-handset recognition in the car.)

So, what Google and Apple have demonstrated is that they can do exactly what Abalta, and Airbiquity, and Luxoft, and Harman, and OpenCar, and UIE, and Nuance, and Bosch, and RealVNC have already done – integrate smartphones in cars. Maybe this is just some bizarre form of Silicon Valley attention-getting deficit disorder.

The automotive industry cannot afford to ignore Google and Apple. They both have important technological contributions to make. But sometimes they are just dancing in their underwear.

Roger Lanctot