Cars are vital to us – some people even see them as part of their identity. But despite the incredible advances in motoring safety and technology we’ve seen in recent years, they’re still not smart – not like the phones in our pockets, which can not only search for whatever we need but can even suggest it to us before we ask. It’s not for a want of trying: a new car might pack in dozens or even scores of computers (the microprocessors and embedded controllers that control everything from the transmission system to the temperature). And some of the giants, like Ford with its Sync service, have been trying to provide voice control and other smart services that connect with your phone. But these are expensive and sometimes clunky affairs. Enter Apple. At its developer conference in June the company announced its new “iOS in the car” programme: it’s teamed up with a dozen automobile manufacturers to support entirely hands-free control of your iPhone. Using its Siri voice assistant, you’ll be able to ask for directions, see a map and the route on the car’s LCD dashboard display, control your music, field phone calls – and quite possibly compose and send texts and emails, as well as have them read out to you.
Google Car coming
Apple is surging ahead with its plans to take over your car, and that’s great news. But when it comes to working in cars, critical mass is key: and right now, there’s a gorilla in the room, minding its own business. Google’s Android is the most widely-used smartphone operating system in the world today, by a very long way, and with prices plummeting all the time it won’t be long before it’s the most widely-used mobile platform, full stop. Yet the search giant has done little so far to tempt car manufacturers into supporting Android, even dropping support for the platform’s in-car mode from earlier versions. Google’s clearly interested in motoring, however – just look at the breakthrough it’s made in self-driving car technology – so it seems unlikely it’ll leave things that way. In June it bought Israeli startup Waze, which provides crowd-sourced, real-time traffic data from all over the world, and would make an essential addition to Google Maps, as well as any car dashboard. It’ll have to move fast though. If Apple takes over your car, it could be shut out of a huge market for a long time. After all, you change your car far less often than your phone – locking people into Apple’s iOS software eco-system for a very long time indeed. Personally I can’t wait to see what both companies can come up with. There’s nothing like competition to spur on innovation, and right now the car is where we need to see it:
it’s high time our rides became as powerful as our mobiles.