GM to Integrate Google Assistant into Next Car Generation
General Motors will integrate Google Assistant and other Google software into its cars starting in 2021. This marks the first time Google is integrating its technology directly into vehicles without an intermediary platform. It also is the first public announcement that Google will be sharing voice assistant data with a partner. Telefonica’s voice assistant Aura was the first to have Google Assistant connectivity but there was no mention of a data-sharing arrangement.
The new partnership between GM and Google will add a complete suite of Google’s software to GM cars including Google Maps and other services. All of them will be accessible via the Google Assistant voice assistant. Users won’t have to connect their phones to the car’s system, it will all be built-in. That’s a big change from the Android Auto platform that Google currently offers as a way to connect its services to cars.
Android auto is a projection technology that simply makes a version of a user’s smartphone experience available in the car dashboard. Automakers have resisted this technology which is also offered by Apple because it preempts access to their own services and turns over a significant portion of the driving experience to the smartphone operating system providers.
Bypassing the intermediary of a smartphone projection would theoretically make for a smoother transition between a smart home or mobile device connection to Google apps and the car. For GM, there’s also an opportunity to make more money and have more influence over the driver experience from its apps in a car.
Reasserting Cabin Control
GM didn’t say what the specific financial arrangement with Google looks like in its announcement of the deal, but it is not exclusive. Importantly, that means any data collected by GM or Google will be shared between them. That kind of data could offer a wealth of useful information about how people use Google Assistant and the attendant apps in their cars and how best to shape the smart device ecosystem to encourage users to keep using Google’s services. According to GM, the partnership doesn’t obviate its software, it just enhances it.
“The integration of select Google technology and services into our vehicle infotainment systems will foster a more connected and efficient driving experience,” said GM’s vice president for Global Connected Customer Experience, Santiago Chamorro, in a statement. “We will continue to offer our own unique infotainment features that only GM can deliver, such as service recommendations, vehicle health status, in-vehicle commerce and more, with the Google applications and services complementing our offerings.”
Cars and Tech Merge
Cars and tech companies have been working separately to bring software services to people in cars for several years now. Android Auto, CarPlay by Apple and Echo Auto by Amazon are all designed to bring the voice assistant experience to the car. There are ongoing attempts to mesh cars and voice assistants, on both ends. Apple Carplay brought Siri to Volkswagen cars last year and Alexa came out with new ways to make its skills more car-friendly back in March. Then there are the automakers turning to partnerships with platform developers to improve their systems, such as Kia integrating SoundHound’s Houndify voice platform into its cars.
But, with people naturally looking to extend whatever experience they have at home or on a mobile device to their car, working directly with a major voice assistant developer like Google makes sense for GM. A recent survey from JD Power found that 59% of U.S. consumers said they were more likely to purchase a new car from a brand that supports their favored smart speaker voice assistant. Google, meanwhile, gets more continuous access to people using Google Assistant in other environments, and potentially many new customers who decide to buy an Android phone or Google Home Hub on the strength of owning a GM car with Google Assistant.