Android Auto and the power of free things

Car companies are good at one thing, making cars. However, the cars these days apparently put less mechanical engineers to work than the software engineers. Makes sense. If tech can make things better, why not put it to good use. Apart from how the car moves and does car-ish things, the infotainment system has seen lot of love from the car companies. Touchscreens that put tablets to shame are the new norm.

android auto

However, have you noticed how long you take to get acquainted to them when you get inside a new car? Some have stupid button designs, others have stupid touchscreen interfaces and then there are the good ones that come as optional extras for stupendous prices. Android Auto and Apple Pay take that pain away.

Think of the Android Auto compatible cars like a hotel ballroom. It is ready for a wedding and ready for a conference depending on what is needed. The compatible head units inside cars play host to Android or Apple, depending on what the user needs.

Now Android Auto has been in news again recently because Google played smart and allowed people to simply use their phones to replace the job of that car infotainment system. This would allow them to get new users and thus develop the entire ecosystem (and get more car companies to partner and offer compatible units). But that is not why I am bickering about this. The reason is much bigger, much deeper because of the potential it holds.

The power of sharing

Ownership is dying. I am bored to death of repeating this now. People are more comfortable sharing and renting vehicles and the change has begun in India as well. Now as I pointed out, the systems that come by default are either ergonomically messed up or too complicated for mere mortal to comprehend in one occasion of renting. Ford for instance likes to load up buttons, Audi basically makes it look like a piano, Merc and BMW are little better. Small car makers like Mahindra and Tata put in a lot of stuff but forget to test them with an actual human before launching. Android Auto brings back the familiar interface and powerful tools to every vehicle. You can’t deny that Google Maps is better overall than most of the navigation systems you will find in cars. Not only that but there is an array of your favourite apps right there for you to use.

Along with the interface, comes data. By now, Google is familiar with the fake American accent you have mastered while brutally murdering grammar and can actually do a much better job of getting things done than the voice control of a car shared by hundred others. Along with this, it also knows about your hotel bookings, your meetings, your home, office and what not. All this data will come together to make the sharing experience more comfortable and dare I say it, more personal, for the user.

The cost of free things

I don’t have money to pay for every damn app I need. This document is being typed on Google Docs instead of Microsoft Word and that explains the reason why I love Google. Google has always released tools to make things better and then eventually along the way, figured out a way to make money without asking for it.

Android Auto is no different. As adoption goes up, the handful of apps will grow into hundreds. They will fight for visibility and spend money into advertising. Apart from the apps, a new screen for users basically means that more advertising avenues will be explored. And don’t even forget the driving data these users will be generating without giving away freebies under Google Local Guides program. From Google Trips to Google driverless car project, there are multiple projects that can benefit from this data.

If you can connect the dots, you will also realise that only a few months back, Google introduced advertising options for small local businesses on Google Maps. Google would basically show sponsored pins along your route or your neighbourhood. They would of course want to attract more advertisers to use the feature and Android Auto will give Google exactly the way to boost value. It will add more users to Google Maps. People who were otherwise dealing with third party navigation systems. So clearly, the seemingly small utility packs in plenty of power.

And by the way, if you have a car incompatible with Android Auto, just get a cheap mount and carry on with your phone now.

 

Akshay Sharma