Apple challenges Google for a larger slice of your dashboard

Apple said Monday that its next-generation CarPlay system will power the vehicle’s entire instrument cluster, the next move in its battle against Android Automotive OS, Google’s in-vehicle operation system, to dominate dashboards around the world.

The growing size and number of screens inside vehicles gives the iPhone maker an opportunity to play a bigger role, regardless of the size of the screen or the shape of its layout. Integrating deeper into the vehicle and finding more ways to embed apps and services creates endless possibilities for automakers and Apple, as well as drivers and third-party services.

The two tech giants have long vied for the valuable data generated inside cars, which can be sliced, diced and sold for infinite commercial opportunities. Google announced last month upgrades to Android Auto to accommodate for larger screens by allowing split-screen displays.

Apple’s announcement comes as more automakers begin rolling out updates over the air rather than with hardware and triangulating with home smart devices, too.

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Most new cars come compatible with both Apple’s and Google’s systems. Apple said it is working with automakers worldwide to implement the new CarPlay in vehicles and will announce the first models late next year.

Android Automotive OS shouldn’t be confused with Android Auto, which, like CarPlay, is a secondary interface that lies on top of an operating system and relies on the user’s smartphone. Android Automotive OS is modeled after its open source mobile operating system that runs on Linux. But instead of running smartphones and tablets, Google modified it so it could be used in cars.

The updated CarPlay system will feature content across all of the dashboard’s screens for a more “unified, consistent” experience for drivers and passengers. Its displays will take over the entire instrument cluster to provide information on speed, climate control and other diagnostics.

“This next generation of CarPlay feels like it was made specifically for your car,” said Emily Schubert, Apple’s senior manager for car experience engineering, at the 2022 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday.

Apple also said the new system will allow drivers to customize the CarPlay experience using colors, backgrounds and layouts for the screens, as well as different themes and styles for the instrument gauge cluster.

Both Apple and Google have been finding more ways to take advantage of the driver experience over the better part of the last decade. Apple launched CarPlay in the Ferrari FF in September 2014, securing a head start in the luxury car segment. Android entered the market nine months later, starting with the Hyundai Sonata and quickly expanding to other car brands.

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