Automakers and politicians are wary of Google’s plans to build Android into cars
German auto manufacturers, including Audi and Mercedes-Benz, along with lawmakers in the country, are reportedly seeking to limit Google’s control over their industry as the search giant pushes for its Android mobile operating system to be built into cars.
The automobile industry is Germany’s largest manufacturing sector, accounting for 6.5 percent of all taxable revenue in the country in 2012, and manufacturers and German lawmakers are concerned that it may become increasingly dependent upon software makers such as Google, according to a report by Bloomberg.
“We mustn’t under any circumstances let our development become dependent on companies like Google,” a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s parliamentary bloc on economic and energy policy told the news service.
A position paper presented at Merkel’s Christian Democrats’ annual conference on 10 December emphasised the growing importance of digital systems in cars.
“Soon, the performance of car digital systems will play at least as big a role in consumers’ purchasing decisions as the company that builds the car,” the paper said, adding that Internet-enhanced driving offers “enormous potential” for the German auto industry.
Audi chief executive Rupert Stadler also made it clear that the company, a brand of Volkswagen, is concerned about the possibility of Google gaining an influence over automakers comparable to that which it has achieved over mobile phone makers. The shift to smartphones forced former leaders Nokia and Ericsson out of mobile phone manufacturing, leaving Apple and Google in control of the most profitable segments of the industry.
“The data that we collect is our data and not Google’s data,” he said. “When it gets close to our operating system, it’s hands off.” The chief executives of Volkswagen and Daimler reportedly made similar comments.
Android Auto, introduced in June, is intended to bring the smartphone OS to cars.
The Open Automotive Alliance established by Google in January has been joined by Volkswagen and Audi, while Mercedes parent Daimler and BMW have so far held out.
BMW has been working with Apple on introducing CarPlay, an automotive version of the iPhone’s iOS, into its vehicles. Daimler told Bloomberg it is planning to join Google’s alliance but is discussing terms.
Google said it is working with auto makers in areas including a shared database to help reduce accidents, and told Bloomberg the company sees itself as “partners” rather than “someone who turns the whole business upside down”. Google’s plans for the car industry ultimately extend to cars that drive themselves (pictured).
BlackBerry and Microsoft also compete in the automotive sector, with Ford dropping Windows Embedded in favour of BlackBerry’s QNX earlier this year.
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