- Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, an alliance of carmakers that sold 10.6 million vehicles worldwide last year, partnered with Google to embed the Android mobile operating system in its cars, per a statement. The alliance's next-generation infotainment system and dashboard displays will roll out in 2021.
- The onboard systems will provide Google Map navigation and access to Google Play apps. The voice-enabled Google Assistant will let drivers answer calls and texts, control music, search for information and manage vehicle functions with spoken commands.
- Meanwhile, Audi plans to provide Amazon Alexa voice control for its e-tron SUV, the carmaker's first all-electric vehicle that goes on sale in the U.S. in Q2 2019. The integration with Alexa means that drivers can use voice commands to play music, control smart home devices and run Alexa apps, VentureBeat reported.
Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi's partnership with Google and Audi's Alexa integration show that carmakers recognize customer preferences for the technology in their smartphones rather than software that's designed specifically for vehicles. As voice platforms grow more popular, consumers are likely to favor vehicles that let them speak with the same familiar assistant that helps to run their households. Google and Amazon are now aiming to provide a more seamless experience for their customers on a variety of devices, including cars. Automakers have struggled to make digital dashboards that are as user-friendly and reliable as smartphones, and have faced criticism for systems that are glitchy or too complicated to use while driving, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Other carmakers may face pressure to open their multimedia systems to Google or Apple, as consumers may be more attracted to interfaces and voice tech that they're already familiar with. Incorporating Google's or Apple's established tech could also be easier for carmakers weighing whether to develop their own proprietary systems. But, a key friction point with carmakers has been the ownership of the valuable data that digital dashboards can collect about drivers. Consulting firm McKinsey estimated that monetizing the data from connected cars will become a $750 billion industry by 2030, including the direct marketing of products and services to consumers, and from sales of data and targeted advertising. Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi and Google declined to discuss the terms of their agreement, but Google will have access to data generated by in-car apps if customers grant permission, the Journal reported.
Car buyers prefer vehicles that have in-car human machine interfaces (HMI), but solutions offered by tech companies are more popular than the on-board systems installed at the factory, per a study from researcher Strategy Analytics. Google's agreement with Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi led researcher IHS Markit to raise its estimates of the number of vehicles running Android Automotive software by 9% to 12 million by 2024. Android Automotive is directly supported by Google, unlike "Generic Android," and can run apps that are available for download in the Google Play store, including iHeartRadio, Pandora, Spotify, WhatsApp, Google Play Books and Music, per IHS Markit.
Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi's new partnership also indicates that carmakers are willing to work with Google, even as the search giant's Waymo business is actively developing a self-driving car that says it will offer commercial robo-taxi service later this year. Waymo has test-driven autonomous vehicles as part of its development of "the driver," an integrated suite of hardware and software for self-driving technology in ride-hailing services, trucking, personal vehicles and public transportation, per Bloomberg. Waymo previously partnered with Fiat Chrysler, Jaguar Land Rover and Honda on self-driving technology.