GM to Replace Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with “Ultifi”

Yes, the air-quote is real. GM is planning to replace Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both smartphone based infotainment systems on cars, with GM’s own flavor of Android Automotive. Tim Babbitt, GM’s head of product for infotainment, says one of the factors behind the decision was safety.

Safety is something I see thrown around on social media. It goes like this: it’s my right to do X because it concerns safety; you must do Y because it concerns safety; you cannot do Z because it concerns safety. By that logic, all cars should be equipped with Faraday cage. What truly stops drivers from texting while driving is, in my opinion, incentive. We are incentivized to focus on the roads while driving, and manufacturers of smartphones and cars both have cooperated to make that cellphone-based communication less intrusive as possible. It is now easier to simply plug the phone to the car and control the phone with the usual car infotainment system hardwares. Perhaps these measures didn’t completely stop the drivers from touching their phones, but we have certainly incentivized them not to.

And the complaints GM has been receiving on infotainment connectivity and compatibility are mostly GM’s issues. Unless the infotainment system is actively crashing mid-driving, faulty ports, cables, or poor implementations are more or less the problems of QA control. Off the top of my head, only exception would be older cars being incompatible with newer versions of smartphone infotainment systems. That would be the only case where automakers can actually blame the smartphone industries for not being transparent with its consumers; long term software support on smartphones is always an issue. If a driver is still blaming their car when their phones are having poor connections all day due to the phone being faulty, I believe GM can filter those complaints out as mere noise.

Ultimately, this is about the question of quality, especially the quality of softwares and software support. And automakers, especially American automakers, are known for anything but reliable. If GM wants to get its head in the game, I believe the company will need to work on connectivity and compatibility as well: continued connectivity to smartphones on Ultifi, and extending compatibility to older ones.

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