BMW and other German automakers concerned with consumer privacy, control over user data, and cybersecurity have historically been leery of sharing car data with third-party technology providers like Apple and Google. For instance, Daimler, Audi, and BMW bought mapping technology unit Nokia HERE largely to ensure it had control over mapping data.
However, connected car platforms developed by Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) have been harder for automakers to avoid. BMW (BMW) is the latest—in a growing list of automakers—that has announced plans this year to integrate Apple CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto into new models. Rumors that BMW would add the two voice-enabled platforms have been circulating since the summer. Harald Krüger, BMW’s chairman of the board, confirmed during the company’s quarterly earning report Tuesday that it would integrate both platforms in future models.
Vehicle connectivity and autonomous driving will shape the future of the automotive industry, Krüger said in a prepared statement read during the conference call. “Digitalization is transforming our entire business model—from customer touch points to mobility concepts and services, as well as to digitally-supported production.”
BMW decided to integrate CarPlay and Android Auto into future vehicles because the company wants its customers to be able to make full use of their smartphone’s features in the car as well, according to Krüger.
“Obviously, it is not in the interest of our customers to give third-party providers access to their data,”Krüger said. “For us, the protection of our customers’ data is top priority.”
Krüger didn’t provide further details about what kind of data protections the company would put in place or how the Google and Apple platforms would function with BMW’s existing infotainment system iDrive.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allow drivers to integrate their smartphone with a vehicle’s dashboard. Android Auto connects to Android smartphones, while CarPlay works with the iPhone. And they work about the same way. Once users plug their smartphone into the car’s USB port, the phone’s maps and navigation, music and selected apps are integrated onto the central screen. Both have similar features with a few notable differences—CarPlay users can only use Apple maps and they no longer have to plug the phones into the car’s USB port.
Applications in both platforms can be controlled by voice, steering wheel controls, and touchscreen. They also will offer third-party audio apps, including iHeartRadio and Spotify. Google and Apple have even signed partnerships with many of the same automakers, including Audi, GM (GM), Kia, Ford (F) and now BMW.
CarPlay and Android Auto are relative newcomers. Apple introduced what would become CarPlay during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in 2013. But they’ve both made inroads with automakers sensitive to the growing demand of tech-savvy consumers who want the same look, feel, and functionality of a smartphone in their car. In-car infotainment systems can have a decidedly old-feel—and can be finicky and hard to use—when compared to the functionality and look of a smartphone.
Many automakers are still committed to their in-car infotainment systems, which can create a wonky experience for users of Android Auto or CarPlay. Right now, users have to switch out of CarPlay or Android Auto to change the temperature on the AC, adjust the radio or control the car’s features.
That might soon change. During Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June, the company announced that in iOS 9 CarPlay will support apps by automakers. If automakers bite, it should lead to a smoother CarPlay experience.