The car software platform wars are just heating up but at least one car maker is backing out of pushing its own, independent platform. At the Hong Kong event where it also teased another car after the Model 3, Tesla CEO Elon Musk touched on the somewhat thorny subject of the Tesla EVs’ SDK. In almost a complete U-turn from its previous position, Musk said that the company is now focusing on just allowing users to mirror their Android or iOS apps on the center screen, instead of having to create a different set of apps just for Tesla’s cars.
Modern cars these days are not only filled with technology that need to be managed via a central console, they have also become app hubs for entertainment. While some automakers still develop their own software platforms, many have either adopted, or at the very least support, Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Until today, Tesla was part of the former, with a web-based platform and SDK of its own.
But a distinct and lone platform that will run on one car maker’s relatively limited number of cars is a sure way of discouraging app developers. It is, in the end, more practical to give users the familiarity of their Android or iOS apps and just mirror those apps on the center console. That said, Tesla will still most likely keep its core software platform installed and simply support smartphone mirroring instead of adopting either of Google’s or Apple’s car platforms wholesale.
Aside from practicality, security considerations might have also come into play in this change of direction. Hacking car software seems to be a growing trend these days, and some are worried that Tesla’s self-developed platform might be more susceptible to attacks. By simply allowing users to mirror apps instead of running them directly on the car’s system potentially closes one potential security hole.
Tesla is expected to unveil the Model 3 this March, touted to be the more affordable option among its electric car stable. Musk, however, didn’t reveal any timeline when the new mirroring capabilities will be pushed to its existing cars.