United States Senator Elizabeth Warren this week penned a letter [PDF] to antitrust officials at the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department, requesting that they investigate “Big Tech’s expansion into the automotive industry.” Warren specifically called out Google, Apple, and Amazon, saying that the companies are setting themselves up to be a “one-stop shop for automakers,” for data collection, cloud storage, analytics, in-car navigation, voice assistants, and autonomous driving collection.
In the letter that was shared by Vox, Warren says that Google, Apple, and Amazon are leveraging their market power in digital app markets, mobile operating systems, and data infrastructure to become “the dominant players in the automotive sphere,” which Warren says has “alarming implications for developers, workers, and consumers.”
Warren highlights Apple’s June 2022 CarPlay announcements, where the company debuted the next-generation CarPlay platform that will “reinvent the car experience” and integrate more deeply with in-vehicle hardware. She also points out that Google has entered into a partnership with Ford that will see Ford using the Android Automotive Operating System, and Amazon is developing autonomous driving systems.
The senator claims that Apple and Google’s expansion into cars threatens to spread “anticompetitive mobile app markets practices” to automobiles, citing in-app purchase requirements and the fact that CarPlay and Android Auto apps must be approved by Apple and Google, respectively, before being allowed into vehicles.
Allowing Big Tech into the automotive industry could “stifle a nascent industry” and price developers out of the market.
For these developers, allowing Google and Apple to take control of car operating systems could mean an end to their ability to compete outside Google’s and Apple’s restrictive platforms. Automotive applications have significant potential to provide drivers and passengers with information, enhance safety, and provide entertainment. But allowing Big Tech companies to cement their exclusive control over the terms of auto app competition could stifle a nascent industry.
Warren is asking the FTC and the DOJ to use their authority to address concerns as they emerge and “prevent further overreach by Big Tech companies.” She says that without “proactive and rigorous oversight,” Google, Apple, and Amazon will “bring their anticompetitive, anti-consumer, and anti-labor practices to the automotive sector.”
Apple’s CarPlay system has been in vehicles since 2014, and it has become ubiquitous, with most major vehicle manufacturers supporting the feature in modern cars. Apple is also working to expand further into automobiles with a full autonomous vehicle, a project that has been in development for many years now. Current rumors suggest that some kind of Apple-branded vehicle could be introduced as soon as 2025.
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