After years of ubiquity, car manufacturers are beginning to resist Apple's CarPlay operating system. Photo: RZ_Images/Alamy Stock Photo
One day, not too far in the future, your electric car glides down a bypass road and joins a herd of vehicles on a motorway.
You press a button and take your hands off the steering wheel, and the car takes control, accelerating and braking through traffic and maneuvering around bends in the road.
Your attention is drawn to the flashing touchscreen in the center of the car.
Since motorway driving is now completely autonomous, you can take your eyes off the road and play a video game, watch the news, or turn on Netflix.
A few years ago, a car's center console was nothing more than a digital clock; today it has become a giant command center.
Tesla Model X boasts a 17-inch screen; other manufacturers have even larger displays located at the front of the vehicle.
The question of who controls this screen has sparked a smoldering conflict between automakers and tech companies that threatens to escalate into a war for control of the future of the car.
Now manufacturers fear that Apple will use the popularity of the iPhone as a Trojan horse to seize control of the relationship between motorists and the car and relegate manufacturers to the background.
In 2014, Apple released CarPlay, a way for iPhone users to access certain apps like Spotify, Apple Maps, and Siri while driving.
More than a dozen manufacturers rushed to sign up, eager to associate themselves with the cutting-edge technology company and take advantage of the ever-cheaper touchscreens to install in cars.
>The software was an almost instant hit . Consumers enjoyed the introduction of iPhone apps in their cars.
By comparison, the vehicle manufacturers' own software has always been something of a fringe, loaded with outdated offline maps and requiring users to navigate a tedious menu bar to connect phones to hands-free systems.
Google followed the year. later with Android Auto, which offered a similar experience for Android phones.
Since then, software has become an expectation, not a bonus.
With the exception of a few opponents, all major car manufacturers have adopted CarPlay and Android Auto.
BMW was forced to drop plans to charge an annual fee after protests from motorists.
Motorists' ; The rejection forced BMW to abandon its attempt to pass the cost of Apple CarPlay on to end users. Photo: Christopher Pledger. car if it supports the software.
Automakers continue to subscribe: Apple says more than 800 vehicles support the software, up from 600 last year.
Last year, Apple introduced a massive software update that will not only serve as an entertainment center , but also control the basic functions of the car, such as air conditioning, fuel gauge and speedometer.
First vehicles supporting the new version should be announced later this year.
Richard Windsor, an independent technology analyst, says it will scare automotive executives.
While today's CarPlay system is relatively simple, mirroring iPhone functions on a single screen, the upcoming version is a much more ambitious car takeover that could be a path for Apple to sell equipment to car manufacturers.
“It makes no sense for Apple to sell the car,” Windsor says. “Apple makes 40-50 percent of its gross margin on the products it sells, but not on the seats and steering wheels. But it makes sense for Apple to sell the infotainment system.”
Windsor says automakers could end up becoming the equivalent of phone networks after Apple entered the mobile market, forcing consumers to focus on mobile phones. and operators – to commoditize.
Tim Cook flirted with Apple's idea to go beyond providing CarPlay and get serious about the automotive industry. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
“That's why it's so dangerous for [manufacturers], because it pushes them down this path, turning them into mobile smartphones on wheels.”
Michael Dunn of ZoZo Go, an automotive consulting firm, says this is approaching the nightmare scenario that Dieter Zetsche, former Mercedes boss, warned about in 2015 when he said the automaker should not become “Foxconn of Apple” by having apparently a Taiwanese company that assembles the iPhone on behalf of Apple.
“[At the time] where is the brand? What is the value in the car? That's the risk of them becoming irrelevant,” says Dunn.
“Why do people buy cars? Not too long ago, it was all about performance, handling, braking, acceleration, and design. But increasingly, people are basing their decisions on the pleasure they get from interacting with the car.”
Now major manufacturers are trying to go their own way.
Tesla, which has invested heavily in its own system instead of using CarPlay, has been an inspiration for manufacturers looking to distance themselves from Apple.
Last month, General Motors said it would not offer software for its future electric vehicles, instead working with Google to incorporate systems like the search giant's maps into its built-in software.
Mercedes has also unveiled plans to integrate Google into its vehicles.
Roger Lanctot, director of automotive mobility at Strategy Analytics, says GM is likely to follow.< /p >
“Automakers and their suppliers hate Apple. While Google is difficult to do business with, Apple is insufferable and inflexible. The automakers just can't stand doing business with this company, and the suppliers go along with it,” he says.
“Automakers are betting that a Google-centric dashboard-integrated system will be far more attractive than anything Apple has to offer. may be preparing. No doubt Apple will tell car companies they have no choice but to embrace the new CarPlay – that their customers will be screaming about it. The bottom line is that Apple will offer a non-negotiable offer that automakers are increasingly turning down.”
Dunn says automakers are hiring thousands of software developers in an attempt to match Apple and Google. , but that “that was never their forte.”
The elephant in the room is a constant threat that Apple will make its own car.
Tim Cook has been thinking about this idea for years and has studied the manufacturing capabilities of companies like Nissan and Hyundai.
So far nothing has come of the idea.
But Apple may not need to make a car to scare manufacturers.