In a new interview with The Verge, Volvo CEO Jim Rowan called out GM’s decision to abandon CarPlay. Rowan explained that Volvo’s strategy is to give customers the choice to use whatever in-car infotainment system they choose, whether that’s Volvo’s own software, Android Auto, or CarPlay.
Volvo CEO on the future of CarPlay
You have the Android Auto, which works well. A lot of customers really enjoy that experience, but we also have Apple CarPlay, and you can use the Volvo OS. So you really got three choices. You can use the base Volvo OS if you want to go and just use that. If you want to use Android Auto, you can use that. If you want to use Apple CarPlay, you can use that.
On GM’s decision specifically:
I don’t think that’s the right approach. No, I absolutely don’t because I don’t think that GM are ever going to have 3.5 billion users that use a product every single day — 200, 300 times a day that they get really used to — and they want their car to basically be a simple, easy connection point to that car. So whether it’s Android or whether it’s Apple or whether it’s iOS, it’s the same experience.
This boils down to Volvo’s decision to acknowledge that there are companies, like Apple and Google, who can build in-car software better than it can. “I think you’ve got to pick your battles,” Rowan explained. “Most people’s lives these days are wrapped up in their smartphone.”
There’s also a safety aspect to this decision. If the car’s infotainment system is different from the system people are familiar with, it leads to drivers being on their phones more than they should.
Whatever choice they make: Android or Apple. You can either say, “I’m going to provide a car that makes that a pleasurable, easy interface experience for you” or you’re going to have a different operating system in the car than you have in your phone, and the phone is in people’s hands much more often than they sit in the car.
Put more frankly, Rowan said that he doesn’t see the need for Volvo to build its own “Hey Volvo” assistant in a world where billions of people already have an iPhone or Android device:
I don’t really get off on the fact that I want a customer to say, “Hey, Volvo.” … There are 7 billion people on the planet that have an iPhone or an Android; you’ve got to figure out where you want to spend your engineering dollars and what benefit that brings to the customer or the shareholders.
Back in March, GM announced its decision to abandon CarPlay in all of its future EVs starting next year. Since that announcement, the automaker has faced endless criticism – from customers and competitors alike.
Today’s comments from Rowan show that Volvo seems to “get it” more than GM does. Ford CEO Jim Farley has also made similar comments in the past, reiterating the company’s continued commitment to CarPlay.
Another thing worth pointing out: Volvo’s in-car infotainment system is powered by Android Automotive. Android Automotive is different from Android Auto, which is Google’s smartphone-mirroring platform akin to CarPlay.
GM’s next-generation infotainment system is also built on Android Automotive. What GM has chosen to ignore, however, is that automakers are free to use Android Automotive and simultaneously offer CarPlay and Android Auto on top.
Nonetheless, GM has shown no willingness to reverse its decision. Only time will tell if dropping CarPlay will have a measurable impact on its business – good or bad.
The full interview with Rowan is well worth a read (or listen) and can be found over at The Verge.
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