Concerns About Big Tech’s Next Potential Monopoly: Connected Cars

Politico reports: When Ford announced that starting in 2023 its cars and trucks would come with Google Maps, Assistant and Play Store preinstalled, CEO Jim Farley called the partnership between his iconic U.S. automaker and the search giant a chance to "reinvent" the automobile — making it an office-on-wheels, with more connectivity than any phone or laptop. "We were spending hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions every year, keeping up with basically a generic experience that was not competitive to your cellphone," Farley crowed on CNBC, announcing the six-year deal with the tech giant.... But many tech-industry watchdogs looked at the Ford-Google car of the future with different eyes. They fear that tech companies will soon be doing to cars what they did to phones: Tying their exclusive operating systems to specific products to force out competitors and dominate a huge swath of the global economy. Indeed, the smartphone wars are over, and Google and Apple won. Now they — and Amazon — are battling to control how you operate within your car. All three see autos as the next great opportunity to reach American consumers, who spend more time in the driver's seat than anywhere outside their home or workplace. And automakers, after years of floundering to incorporate cutting-edge technologies into cars on their own, are increasingly eager for Silicon Valley's help — hoping to adopt both its tech and its lucrative business models where consumers pay monthly for ongoing services instead of shelling out for a product just once. Now, having missed the boat as the tech giants cornered the market on smartphones, some policymakers and regulators believe the battle over connected cars represents a chance to block potential monopolies before they form. State attorneys general who sued Google in 2020 for monopolizing online search highlighted concerns about the company's move into autonomous cars in their federal antitrust complaint. Meanwhile, in Europe, the EU's competition authority has opened a probe into Google's contracts related to connected cars... While Silicon Valley and automakers are thrilled about the future of connected and autonomous cars, regulators and privacy advocates are less so. "These companies have an amount of data on us that they shouldn't have, and they have a history of not using it in responsible ways," said Katharine Trendacosta of the digital civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation. "They have a history of going back on promises they have made about that data." She cited Google's pledge during the DoubleClick acquisition in 2008 — which it later reneged on — not to combine data from its consumer products with that from its advertising services. The article quotes Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III, who last December complained that "When smartphones took off, Google made sure they controlled search on Apple's iPhone. They are doing the same thing on voice and connected cars. It's a similar playbook." And an executive at an automotive supplier that competes with Google tells Politico that Google is already "corralling everything through their system and controls what information is released downstream." And Jim Heffner, a vice president at Cox Automotive Mobility, adds that "The ride is no longer the point. Data is the cornerstone. ... Apple and Google and others want to be at the epicenter of that."

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