Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Switches to Google’s Android Infotainment System; Tom Tom Takes a Beating

Automakers and tech companies are integrating their technologies; meanwhile, Automologist MAC finds himself having to explain a piece of tech from the past.

The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi auto manufacturing business seems to have found a solution to the internal argument it has been having over which standalone infotainment system to use and will now adopt Alphabet’s Google Android operating system. This move will accelerate the integration of Nissan and Renault technologies, a process that has already taken 20 years and by all accounts has been the cause of tension between the two companies; chosing a third-party system should remove a major source of conflict.

With combined sales of over 10 million vehicles last year for the Renault Group, this can obviously be described as a huge win for the American tech company as it pushes for a greater share of the world’s infotainment market. The plan is to progressively integrate the Google system into all future models, with the first being available by 2021. The new system will see Google Maps replace mapping specialist Tom Tom, a major supplier to Renault. As a result of the announcement, the Dutch company saw a massive fall in its share value.

Up to date, many larger car manufacturers have balked at using the likes of Google and have plumped for platforms such as Linux or QNX software, largely so that they would not lose control of their customer databases and potentially future revenues from connected services. The trouble is that these platforms tend not to have the scope to add new applications or functionality.

The new infotainment system will be capable of handling thousands of apps, including some more affordable versions for emerging markets where Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi operate.

The system will also be partnered with remote vehicle diagnostics, which is starting to sound a little like Big Brother will be watching us. According to the alliance’s development head, Had Zablit, the new system “promises rich user experiences that are currently available only outside the vehicle, or, to a limited extent by connecting an Android device to supported vehicles.”  Sounds like a little spin to me.

Presently, many manufacturers already offer some form of mirroring system to link the driver’s personal smartphone to the car to provide an infotainment system, such as Apple CarPlay, which I have in my car and which has completely replaced the need for an onboard radio/CD player/cassette deck/navigation system/car phone, etc. But this hasn’t stopped some manufacturers, such as BMW, from persevering with their own expensive operating systems. This move, though, may be the beginning of the end for bespoke systems and may mark the start of cooperation between the larger volume car manufacturers and global tech firms.

Last weekend, I borrowed a ‘classic’ car from a friend that still had the cassette deck in it, so I rooted around in some old boxes and found an old cassette to put in the player as we drove along. My kids were very bemused with the technology and I had to explain that was what we used before we had the internet and smartphones.

One of my kids asked if I was born before the internet, which of course I was; he then was compelled to ask, “Daddy, just how old are you?”

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