There’s currently a lot of talk about a trend that Tesla co-founder Ian Wright discussed in our pages a year ago: even as software becomes a more and more critical part of the automobile, the user interfaces built by the (non-Tesla) automakers are clunky and old-fashioned, especially when it comes to integrating with our other devices.
In an interview at Code Conference 2015, Walt Mossberg questioned GM CEO Mary Barra about this topic and several other aspects of the triple trends of electrification, connectivity and autonomy.
Both Walt and an audience member tried to elicit some comment about Tesla, but Barra had little to say beyond the fact that both company and vehicle are “impressive.” The guy in the audience said that he owns two GM cars, but finds the Model X mighty tempting vis a vis his “12-mpg Buick Enclave,” (the 2015 Buick Enclave has EPA fuel economy estimates of 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway).
It’s not just the performance and freedom from foreign oil that intrigue him about Tesla. He also eloquently described why GM and its ilk have a long way to go to catch up with their Silicon Valley gadfly. “You want your phone, your navigation – and your choice in navigation – your music and your messaging. That integration is what [Tesla] did in that beautiful display so well.”
Barra assured us that better and more flexible user interfaces are on the way. GM recently announced that 14 of the 2016 Chevies will support a choice of the Apple CarPlay or Android Auto “connected dashboard” systems, and more models will follow.
She pointed out that there are some aspects of connectedness that GM chose not to enable for safety reasons. However, “To have that seamless integration…we’re working hard to enable that as quickly as we can.”