I will tell a little secret here: I have the test of a Polestar 2 on my hands. We will talk about the virtues or defects of the Swedish saloon at another time. I’m here today to focus on the user experience with Android Automotivethe operating system that Polestar cars mount.
And the first contacts with the new operating system of the Swedes could not have been better. In fact, I have strong reasons to believe that Google and Apple, but especially the former, have opened a door that is already impossible to close. Both have entered the industry, whether the rest of the manufacturers want it or not.
Software as a cornerstone
The same statements have been repeated for a long time: software will be one of the distinctive elements in the future. In a market that tends towards standardization, brands begin to elevate software to a fundamental piece as differential value.
The first results are still mixed. Tesla has refused to allow anyone to enter its screens, but the truth is that it is giving good results. Porsche updates have shown everything they can give, even with improvements in autonomy without the need to go through the workshop. Within the same automobile group, Volkswagen is on the opposite side.
Con better or worse results, firms have decided to invest millions of euros (many millions of euros) in developing their own systems. Some, such as Mercedes have achieved good results but others, such as BMW, despite its extensive options, are clearly improvable in the distribution of elements.
Ford, in its Mustang Mach-e, has a clear aging problem, with well-structured menus that don’t always show the information in the clearest possible way, or even suffers from some small lag.
For one reason or another, the software of each vehicle has been analyzed, in most cases I choose to connect my phone and take advantage of Apple CarPlay. And the same with Android Auto if I kept my old Pixel 4.
There is no way back
If I was happy with Android Auto, immersing myself in the benefits of Android Automotive was only a matter of time.
The Polestar 2 features this Google’s operating system designed specifically for the car. A base on which each manufacturer can add their own layer. Polestar already does it but also Volvo or Renault. And it will soon BMW.
And it’s no coincidence that more manufacturers are assuming that Google’s base is better than theirs. The problem for technology is that it is necessary for the car to share a large part of the data collected with the operating system. Just one of the battles between brands, who want to get a new (and huge) income entry with them.
Google and Apple have years of advantage over manufacturers and some are beginning to assume it
The problem for manufacturers is that Google and Apple take them years and years ahead in software development and that is noticeable at the first moment when we get into a vehicle that mounts Android Automotive.
The first thing that stands out is the sensation of being before something familiar. The distribution of applications in folders, the gestures to move through the menus or how notifications are displayed is just as one expects: the same as on your mobile phone.
In 2021 it was calculated that we spend 4.8 hours a day using the mobile phone. almost 300 minutes daily. The fact that our car’s screen works exactly like a device that is omnipresent in our daily lives breaks a small barrier that will make the adaptation period much faster.
Everything has an impact on some small and very simple improvements. The improvement in the user experience is enormous with a few strokes. A first board with the applications distributed in huge folders. Having all the aids for semi-autonomous driving displayed in large buttons with an image that summarizes the sections that we are facing. A simple bar to set the load limit of the car.
The barrier to entry to operating system control is virtually non-existent
Little ones details that are valued more when we log in to our Google account. Although I miss basic services like Gmail in the Play Store (the limited number of apps available is worrying), there is something that has me in love. The calculation of the autonomy available.
With our Google session started, the Google Maps application will show us all the destinations that we have saved. But, in addition, the battery level with which we will reach each of them is specified. And, short of doing a few more tests, these are the best predictions I’ve seen in an electric car. In fact, as a general rule they have been slightly bearish and I have reached my destination with a difference of between one and two percent of surplus battery in my favor.
Besides, the huge database Google allows Android Automotive to have an immense battery of possibilities when we make specific searches for cafes, hotels, restaurants or any other type of service. Also with the charging points, always showing me the most logical options en route, how much battery I will have to fill and how long I will deviate from the road to charge.
As a negative point, it is still pending to improve the available charging options a little better. For example, I usually make my trips to Extremadura and the Tesla Supercharger in Almaraz is open to any vehicle. Despite this, it was not an option that the vehicle contemplated on the route.
The pending subject is to expand the available applications
A notice to manufacturers… and Apple
A few months ago I explained how Google and Apple have bad news for manufacturers. And, in general terms, he reaffirmed me in that article.
Android Automotive stands out for its simplicity and, above all, because the mental barrier What it means to get into a new operating system is almost invisible. And it seems to me something fundamental when we talk about getting into a car, a device that we often use in a hurry and whose screen we drive at more than 100 km/h.
I myself would have said a few years ago that all this is secondary when choosing a vehicle, but with the industry giving more and more weight to its operating systems, the use or not of Android Automotive can be a stumbling block for manufacturers that decide to do without it.
Apple is attempting a similar move with the new Apple CarPlay that should arrive this year. However, the manufacturers do not seem to be willing to offer so much data to a company that, in addition, will eliminate all traces of own personality on their menus.
Apple wants to have virtually free access to driver and car data, providing data from the speedometer, the rev counter, the fuel gauge or the remaining range itself. At the moment, very few manufacturers have announced that they will offer this new operating system from Cupertino.
The problem for Apple is that its Maps application does not reach the depth of Google Maps in Spain. It may not be a problem in the United States but it is in other parts of the world. In its favor, it must be said that, probably, the integration between devices will be very good and the “conversation” between the car and the mobile phone when it comes to displaying the calendar or anticipating where we have to go will also be good. Mind you, the latter are just assumptions based on my experience with Apple CarPlay.
The advantage for Apple? Its drag power is very great. This is how the handful of manufacturers who have announced their adoption and who are willing to fold to the future Apple operating system for the car. They know that, as with Android Automotive, they can be a sufficient purchase value for the customer to opt for them and not for a vehicle with its own operating system.
In both cases, Google and Apple have already begun to win the battle.
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