The future of retail is playing out in multiple places, not the least of which is the open road. That’s where the connected vehicle ecosystem is being built.
One of the latest examples of that comes from General Motors, which plans to add Google apps capability to its cars in 2021, according to a report.
Buick, Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac vehicles will have in-car voice, navigation and other Google-enabled capabilities.
In 2017, GM started shipping vehicles with Android Automotive OS, starting with integration in the Cadillac CTS and then expanding to other cars. It is based on the operating system that runs on phones and tablets, but was modified to work with cars. The services will be embedded into the car’s operating system, so drivers can access the same features they use on their phones from their vehicles.
Santiago Chamorro, GM’s vice president for global connected customer experience, said the car company decided on the move after doing some customer research.
The compatibility will start in 2021, and the apps will be available in the Google Play store. There will be more integration throughout all GM brands after the initial deployment.
Drivers will eventually be able to do things like make calls, change radio stations, adjust the in-car temperature or even close the garage door if they have a connected smart home. The Google Assistant integration is expected to continuously evolve, so drivers could potentially be able to engage with their connected vehicles using voice.
Amazon is part of the game, too.
A little over a year ago Amazon launched the Alexa Auto software development kit (SDK) before rolling out the corresponding piece of hardware — the Alexa Auto device designed to wire Alexa OS directly into the car via Bluetooth, Bluetooth LE or an auxiliary jack. As for what Alexa can do in a car? With the words “Alexa I’m hungry” the artificial intelligence (AI) will provide a handful of suggestions for dining along the route. For drivers who have their calendars saved to Alexa, the voice assistant will suggest driving routes to optimize time around a scheduled event. And drivers who, say, want to let family members know when they are getting home can instruct Alexa to herald their arrival on their home smart speaker. Alexa can also roll the windows up and down and control the cabin temperature.
And that is version 1.0. Amazon’s Alexa Auto SDK is very much a work in progress. The new version largely adds functionality to make it easier for Alexa to stay online when the car’s internet connection is interrupted. The new SDK also enables some offline car-control features like the ability to control defrost and interior lighting.
For the time being, new car sales are trending up — believe it or not. The AAA says Americans spend 50 minutes behind the wheel each day on average. According to the 2019 edition of PYMNTS digital drive report, consumers behind the wheel represent a $260 billion commerce opportunity annually in the U.S. — and the U.S population is becoming increasingly habituated to using voice controls to mediate those transactions. The digital drive report found most commuters (53.3 percent) are turning to voice assistants to connect while driving and 36.6 percent of commuters who use voice assistants connect to the internet using their mobile device.
These recent moves from Amazon and Google show where a good part of that effort is headed.