Tech titan Google Inc.’s push into into the auto sector is starting to worry German carmakers. Google’s Android Auto is facing growing opposition in Germany, where carmakers such as Audi and Mercedes-Benz are balking and lawmakers seek to limit the software company’s access under the hood.
The firm’s Android Auto enables drivers to interact with the music and navigation systems in their automobiles. German carmakers don’t want the software to do any more than that. The worst case scenario in their minds would be for Android to control cars as it does phones and tablets.
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German politicians are also concerned about Google’s plan for the auto industry. They want to make sure that Germany’s flagship industry is not pushed to the backseat as Google gains access to data on the behavior and location of cars and their passengers. Moreover, given that German car manufacturers who dominate the technologically innovative luxury segment aren’t ready to play along yet, Google is clearly facing more headwinds in its efforts to penetrate the industry.
It’s our data
“The data that we collect is our data and not Google’s data,” Audi Chief Executive Officer Rupert Stadler commented in a recent interview, echoing statements from Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn and Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche. “When it gets close to our operating system, it’s hands off.”
Clearly concerned about Google’s market power, the German government wants to prevent the firm from developing a monopoly position in the near-future market for cars that will drive themselves. Of note, the automotive industry represented 6.5% of all taxable revenue in Germany in 2012, based on data from the Federal Statistical Office, making it the largest manufacturing sector in the country.
Avoiding Google dependency
“We mustn’t under any circumstances let our development become dependent on companies like Google,” noted Joachim Pfeiffer, spokesman for Merkel’s parliamentary bloc on economic and energy policy.
According to consulting firm Roland Berger, the market for assisted-driving software could top $25 billion by 2030.
Google spokesman Klaas Flechsig had no comment on political opposition in Germany to the firm’s plans.
Flechsig did note that the company no longer plans for the first Android Auto cars to be on the streets by year-end 2014.