Driving the Future of Travel
Published: Friday, January 24, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 31, 2014 00:01
When you think of technology juggernauts like Google and Apple waging battles for market share, the first products that come to mind are most likely personal or wearable tech like smartphones, watches and Google Glass. But if you follow the activities of these companies closely, you will see that they are not investing all of their resources in gadgets made for your eyes or your wrist: Both companies have been allocating a great deal of time and money to devices made for the dashboard of your car.
Both Apple and Google have been aggressively seeking partnerships in the auto industry to try and create the next big thing: A dashboard unit in your car powered by Android or iOS.
In 2014, a group of a dozen car companies including Honda, Ferrari, Mercedes and Ford will offer iOS 7 integration with their dashboard units. So what could that mean for you as a consumer? In the short term, it means hopefully no more dealing with clunky built-in GPS interfaces and never again needing to balance your phone in your lap for GPS directions. Additionally, you could load your music library onto the cloud and play it directly through your car’s stereo system without reliance on any other device. Apple already mentioned other services that will be included as well, such as Siri, messaging, Apple maps (which will hopefully not be confusing your beach getaway for inner Mongolia by then), web searches and apps like Wikipedia and Twitter that will be integrated into the car itself. While I personally am not wild about the idea of driving next to someone who is tweeting, listening to music and talking to Siri while cruising down the highway, presumably safety will also be a consideration throughout the development process.
Never far behind, Google has teamed up with Audi, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and chipmaker Nvidia to form a group called the “Open Automotive Alliance.” Google’s counterstrategy has been to offer its operating system for free, hoping to generate revenue later on through its services and software sales. Strategically, this is also an excellent counter to Apple, which relies heavily on device sales to maintain its profit margins. Android, which is the largest and most used mobile operating system in the world, would offer similar capabilities to iOS in your car. However, with Google’s vastly popular maps and GPS service, one would have to think that for a device meant for the car, Android would seem to have the upper hand in terms of functionality. However, with an enormous and very loyal consumer base, especially among Americans, Apple is a serious competitive threat to Google.
While it remains to be determined which, if either, of these two companies will gain dominant market share during this early developmental stage, the prospect of it has several exciting implications for the future of driving. Namely, the long sought-after concept of the self-driving car is much more likely to come to fruition in a world in which cars are running the same operating system. Less ambitiously, GPS tracking in each car would mean that traffic patterns could be traced in real time, and apps could be created that worked with the GPS in your car to provide accurate data on how best to avoid traffic and reach your destination as quickly as possible.
Although it creates a lot of potential for sparking further innovation, in the meantime, a fully integrated mobile operating system in the dashboard of your car means bringing an entire world of entertainment options into the vehicles of the generation that brought us the laws against texting and driving. A promising future of relaxing with full internet access while Siri drives you to lunch should not allow us to lose sight of the present, as driving is inherently dangerous and distractions have shown to be even more deadly than alcohol consumption. Changes in law to protect drivers could cut the entire initiative short by banning this kind of technology in our vehicles. As we watch the emergence of the innovations that will drive future technology, it is important that we not forget our own limitations and remain safety conscious.
Henry Parrott is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. TECH TALK appears every other Friday in the guide.