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Should Big Tech Control the Car Industry?

“Mobile Operating System” may take on new meaning

Not too long ago, the Big Three meant Chrysler, Ford and General Motors. Now it means Amazon, Apple and Google, and consumer advocates say the auto industry may be the next big expansion area for Big Tech, with serious consequences for car buyers.

Big Tech firms are already embedding themselves into tomorrow’s vehicles, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) warned in a letter to federal regulators, saying the expansion raises serious competition concerns.

“Google, Apple, and Amazon are leveraging their market power in the mobile operating system, digital app markets, and data infrastructure spheres to become the dominant players in the automotive sphere. This expansion has potentially alarming implications for developers, workers, and consumers,” Warren said her letter to the Federal Trade Commission and the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Justice Department.

Tech firms are already touting their plans for taking over the dashboards of future car models and some in the auto industry are alarmed, fearing that the Big Tech brands will overshadow auto brands, in effect creating Apple, Google and Amazon cars/

“Digital experiences”

At its Worldwide Developers Conference in June, Apple introduced the sweeping next generation of its car infotainment system CarPlay,  promising to “reinvent the car experience” and claiming that CarPlay will no longer be just an infotainment system but rather the user interface (UI) that car owners experience.

Google has also announced several automotive partnerships, including a six-year partnership with Ford to integrate its Android Automotive Operating System into all new Ford vehicles and to provide wide-ranging data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning services. Under this partnership, Google will play a role in everything from creating “digital experiences” for Ford customers to modernizing Ford’s plant operations.

Amazon is also establishing footholds for itself throughout the automotive industry, including creating autonomous driving systems, developing vehicle software, and investing in autonomous ground transportation.

In her letter, Senator Warren complains that the Big Tech companies are using “all-or-nothing” tactics to expand their anticompetitive grasp of the automobile market including through bundling and exclusionary agreements, App Store gatekeeping, and how they are laying the groundwork for potentially anticompetitive uses of Americans’ data. She also urges antitrust authorities to remain vigilant for attempts by Big Tech firms to use their size to buy up companies that could pose a threat to their dominance.

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