Chevy gets smartphone savvy
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CARMAKERS TURN TO SILICON VALLEY TO HELP DRIVERS SYNC DEVICES WITH VEHICLES
By the end of the year, nearly every major carmaker will begin offering Apple’s CarPlay or Google’s Android Auto, systems that effectively turn a car’s dashboard screen into a smartphone.
General Motors has made the biggest move so far, announcing that both systems will be available in seven 2016 Chevrolet models starting in the summer. The Apple system will appear in seven additional Chevy models. Hyundai has announced the Android system in the Sonata midsize car.
Experts say the move to systems devised in Silicon Valley is an admission by the manufacturers that people favour the way their smartphones work over the car-builders’ own touch screens and voice commands, which have been prone to glitches. The in-house systems have cost the car companies millions and dinged their quality ratings.
People are familiar with smartphones and have music libraries, podcasts, social media contacts and other personal items on them, said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, a technology research firm in San Jose, California. Carmakers, he said, have realised most drivers can’t be bothered learning a whole new car-based system.
“We just want familiar. We want our content, our services that we already own on our phone. We just want the car to have the representation of that on demand,” Bajarin said.
GM customers will have to buy a new Chevrolet equipped with the brand’s “MyLink” touch screens, which are available on many entry-level models.
Once people plug into the car’s USB port, the system will convert the screen to resemble the phone. The system will then be able to play a person’s music library, log on to music apps with a touch, send and receive text messages by voice, and even call up Apple or Google Maps for navigation.
The number of available apps will be limited to avoid driver distraction, GM officials said. Many can be controlled by voice commands, and the system will not support video.
To work with MyLink, Android phones must have at least the Lollipop 5.0 operating system, and Apple CarPlay requires an iPhone 5 or newer model.
GM will provide CarPlay or Android Car for no extra cost. Although this might cause some drivers to shun MyLink, GM believes that giving consumers the choice will help it sell more cars, said Saejin Park, the company’s director of innovation and portfolio planning.
Mark Boyadjis, senior analyst for infotainment at IHS Automotive, says the decision doesn’t necessarily mean the death of MyLink, Ford’s Sync and other systems. The manufacturers’ systems have specific information about the car that Apple or Google can’t duplicate — engine diagnostics, heating and air conditioning controls or even the ability to set up service appointments with dealerships, Boyadjis said.
GM officials also noted that some car owners might drive in areas without the cellular coverage needed to run the Apple or Google systems. Others prefer not to plug anything in to their cars.
Initially the systems will be in the 2016 Spark mini car, Cruze compact, Malibu midsize car, Camaro and Camaro convertible and the Silverado pickup, regular and heavy-duty models.
If something goes wrong with the system under warranty, Apple and Google would be responsible if the problem originates with their software. GM would handle any problems on its end such as the MyLink hardware, GM said.
Apple and Android combined control about 95 per cent of the world’s smartphone market, so having both systems is necessary. International Data Corp is forecasting Android will have a 79 per cent share of the smartphone market this year and Apple (iOS) a distant second at 16 per cent.
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