Apple, Google Lead Connected Car Partnerships

Connected Cars

The connected car combinations are coming, as auto manufacturers are signing on with their Big Tech allies of choice to seamlessly transform the automobile into the latest connected device.

Ford and Google led off the week with an announcement that they are teaming up to launch Team Upshift, a six-year partnership intended to advance vehicle innovation and data-driven opportunities.

“As Ford continues the most profound transformation in our history with electrification, connectivity and self-driving, Google and Ford coming together establishes an innovation powerhouse truly able to deliver a superior experience for our customers and modernize our business,” Jim Farley, president and CEO of Ford, said in a press release on Monday (Feb. 1).

The first-of-its-kind partnership is designed to leverage both firms’ respective competencies and assets to speed the development of various connected car advances, including developing new car-buying retail experiences, data-based ownership offers and a wider array of exclusive services for drivers.

Starting in 2023, Ford and Lincoln vehicles will be equipped with built-in Google apps and services powered by the mobile Android operating system. Ford has also named Google Cloud as its preferred cloud provider. The in-car Android operating system is designed to be open enough that both Ford and third-party developers will have the ability to develop apps that provide a personalized car ownership experience.

“We are obsessed with creating must-have, distinctively Ford products and services,” said Farley. “This integration will unleash our teams to innovate for Ford and Lincoln customers, while seamlessly providing access to Google’s world-class apps and services.”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai was similarly enthused, noting that the Big Tech firm is looking forward to applying its artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics and cloud computing platforms to help Ford revamp its business around the future of “automotive technologies.” “From the first moving assembly line to the latest driver-assist technology, Ford has set the pace of innovation for the automotive industry for nearly 120 years,” Pichai added.

Google and Ford weren’t the only big news in automotive tech matchmaking this week. The following day (Feb. 2), Apple announced it was considering investing $3.6 billion in Kia for the manufacture of the partnership’s new electric Apple cars. The deal will see Apple take an equity stake in Kia, which will then build a manufacturing facility for the autonomous electric car in Georgia, according to a South Korean newspaper. Production will reportedly begin in 2024 with the goal of making around 100,000 cars per year, with the ability to ramp up to 400,000 per year. There’s no official word from Apple or Kia as of yet, though reports indicate that the deal could be finalized on Feb. 17.

Apple’s automotive effort, Project Titan, has been running in some capacity since 2014. Rumors have been rampant in this arena: In January, reports surfaced that Hyundai was working with Apple; as of last week, another report came out that Hyundai had passed the Apple project to Kia. PYMNTS reported earlier in the year that the Apple car was aiming for a 2024 debut.

As Car IQ Founder and CEO Sterling Pratz told PYMNTS in a recent conversation, connected cars weren’t much more than an aspiration until rather recently, as the underlying infrastructure simply hadn’t been built yet. “Fast-forward to today, and gas pumps are connected, tolling stations are connected, parking lots are connected, McDonald’s is connected, Starbucks is connected,” Pratz said. “These things suddenly became a reality.”

A reality that auto manufacturers and Big Tech players like Apple and Google are teaming up to take on, because, as Pratz noted, they can see the shape of things to come in the industry. Car IQ started out looking to primarily serve the B2B fleet vehicles segment, until some time in the market revealed a bigger opportunity. “We’ve got a growing number of customers across the spectrum that are saying, ‘Hey, I really would like to modernize things and automate my payment strategy,’” he said. “They’re simply looking for a new way to pay that’s easier and more secure.”

Consumers don’t want to wait around for the connected car future, said Pratz — they want the connected car present, and it’s one that automakers and technologists are teaming up to build quickly.

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