As the dash evolves from mechanical to digital, giving way to touchscreens and voice commands, automakers appear incapable of meeting consumer expectations. The responsive and intuitive nature of tablets and smartphones lead consumers to assume similar technology, like the touchscreens in many new vehicles, will performance similarly. In many cases they do not, often resulting in a negative customer experience.

Now Google and Apple, companies familiar with and very good at developing user interfaces, will invade the dashboard. Both tech giants seek to roll out in-dash systems that will use an amalgamation of vehicle and smartphone to bring a more seamless and better performing user experience to the cabin.

But will the tech-branded takeover of the center stack, an area of frequent interaction by owners, impede on the automaker’s brand value? You may be driving an Audi, but you’re looking-at and interacting-with Apple in the car. One could make the argument that companies like Google and Apple want to infiltrate vehicles not to earn revenue today, but rather to kick start a long campaign of associating their brand with pleasing vehicle experiences.

Automakers have no other choice, really. They either let the Apples and Googles into the car or hope buyers aren’t persuaded into a competitors vehicle that is iPad-like in it’s ease of use.

Automakers are not equipped or capable of building the human interface required for personal computing – which is what the dash has become (like it or not).

Infotainment dominance isn’t the goal

You’re probably thinking this is where I sit down my glass of Apple juice and list all the ways in which Silicon Valley will shake up the automotive industry by building some state-of-the-art disruptive vehicle. Not really. My curiosity is on whether or not this operating systems of in-car technology will erode the many vehicle nuisances that act as market differentiators.

Before we go any further, let me set the stage with this press release from 2025:

February, 26, 2025 – SOMEWHERE, CALIFORNIA. CarBon Inc. has announced a new 5-year partnership with Toyota subsidiary, Tesla Motors, to print the new Tesla Spirit sports sedan.  The 2027 Spirit will sit atop the latest version of the 700HPX power drive system, developed by Gigafactory, a Toyota-Apple joint venture to develop and manufacture various energy solutions for industry and government. Variations of the all-wheel drive 700HPX currently underpin the 2024 Corvette Freedom and could also be in the rumored 2028 Alfa Hero X.  CEO of CARbon said, “Our plants capability to print multiple vehicles without retooling and minimal reeducation, combined with our proficiency working with advanced carbon polymers, makes CarBon the premier choice for automakers looking for safe, cost-effective vehicle production solution.”

Assume this is a real story and further assume that the in-car experience has become as ubiquitous as choosing between one of two operating systems or brand of battery packs. While attributes like reliability and price will continue to play a role in overall purchase decisions; in this new world, a world where engines and in-car are very similar, design is the future battleground for customers.