BMW: We don't want Apple or Google taking over all the vehicle interactions - this is definitely our space - MrLiambi's blog


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Friday 6 January 2023

BMW: We don't want Apple or Google taking over all the vehicle interactions - this is definitely our space

BMW has been at the forefront of a number of Apple developments in automotive in recent years, often the first brand to offer more advanced functions that the iPhone offers.

It was first to offer wireless Apple CarPlay - and indeed wasn't interested in offering Android Auto until that too could be wireless - but it was also the first brand to support Apple CarKey having worked together to establish the standard that underpins it.

But there is a limit to how far BMW will let Apple or Google go when it comes to control of its vehicles. While BMW is happy to have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto offer a range of telephone functions within a car, there's a line when it comes to controlling car functions.

In an interview with Frank Weber, BMW board member and head of technology at the German car brand, we asked what BMW thought about Apple's desire to take over all the screens in a car and run a giant CarPlay experience.

This experience was shown off at WWDC 2022 and is expected to be supported in a range of 2023 launch vehicles. But how would BMW feel about handing over control to a third party?

"We don't like that," said Weber, "because this is a BMW and not an Apple Car."

Weber wanted to make it clear that telephone functions were most welcome: "we want a pleasant experience [for] how you integrate typical telephone functions and those interactions that you are used to on the telephone," Weber stressed, "but then there comes a space that is car-oriented and this is definitely our space."

Apple CarPlay has undoubtedly been popular. Many now get into their car, have their phone connect and circumvent any provision that the car's manufacturer might have provided for major entertainment services.

There's always been a downside to using a service like Apple CarPlay, however, and that's integration. While the main display gets taken over and perhaps music ID in the cluster or heads-up display, if you choose to use something like Apple Maps or Waze, you'll find that you don't get the same level of integration that you would from the car's own systems.

"When it comes to controlling a vehicle, looking for a charging station, assessing the charging station, this is your selection of charging stations, what is happening nearby - we want to have that customer interaction as a BMW and not leave it to Apple."

"There are more and more functions, especially for electric vehicles - what is the battery condition? Is it hot? Is it cold? What time will you arrive at a destination? - this has nothing to do with a phone taking over control within your vehicle," says Weber.

Apple's aim for the next-gen of CarPlay is to provide the interface for many more functions beyond just entertainment, providing an Apple experience across all the displays in the car - including the driving cluster and things like the fuel gauge, speedo or climate control.

Talking on the same topic, Christophe Grote, SVP of electronics and software at BMW at a session during CES 2023, said that Apple would be supported through phone mirroring functions, but a full system that went beyond phone mirroring wouldn't be supported.

Apple isn't being singled out by BMW: indeed, Google is in the same position, with BMW unwilling to offer the full Google Automotive Services (as you'd find in Polestar or Volvo for example), mainly because of the licensing involved and what happens to customer data. BMW doesn't want to hand that over to Google.

BMW will, however, be moving to an Android platform for Operating System 9, its next-gen in-car software experience.

But what BMW is doing is using the open source Android Automotive OS, fully customised for a BMW experience and offering a range of native apps provided by the Faurecia Aptoide app store - with BMW staying completely in control, rather than ceding some of that to Google.

The focus of modern cars is moving away from the traditional realms of ride and handling, and turning to digital connected experiences instead, but it's clear that BMW wants to stay in control and develop an experience that it owns, without sacrificing the connectivity and experiences that the likes of Apple and Google offer.

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