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Automotive Industry Hot Topics January 5, 2024

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This week Alan discusses GM ditching Apple CarPlay & Android Auto, the return of 48 volt architecture, and the shifting battleground for autoworker organizing.

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In-Vehicle Tech Advances & Setbacks:  

Alan’s thoughts:

Early last year, GM raised eyebrows by announcing it was dropping the popular CarPlay and Android Auto from future vehicles. Recently, GM shed light on the motivation behind such a move. I suspect that most people who have used CarPlay and Android Auto have experienced “drop-outs” while driving. Whether warranted or not, users will often blame the automaker for such poor performance. The underlying challenge stems from the clock speed of cell phone application software which changes much more frequently than automotive infotainment systems. This makes system interoperability testing extremely complex. Consequently, some applications will lack the desired robustness, resulting in user dissatisfaction. GM’s strategy aims to address this issue by offering a solution combining the characteristics of automotive robustness with a cell phone’s frequent over-the-air updates, such as maps. We will have to wait to see if GM can execute this vision. 

The Push for Auto Sales: 

Alan’s thoughts:
The 48 volt architecture is back? Seeming to have more lives than Morris the Cat, the architecture can be found on Tesla’s new Cybertruck. While numerous automakers have implemented sub-systems powered by 48 volts (e-Torq, electric power steering, etc.), few if any, have fully eliminated 12 volt networks. As students of Ohm know, 48 volt networks provide the same power delivery of a 12 volt system at ¼ the current. This means wire harnesses can use thinner wires reducing cost and weight. The main sticking point has long been the 70-year legacy of 12 volt electrical components (such as radios, window lift motors, etc.) ingrained in the supply base, providing reliable, robust, and readily available components at scale. Transitioning to 48 volts means the supply base must redesign and retool while continuing to earn a profit on commoditized components — a formidable task in today’s environment. 

Labor Update: 

Alan’s thoughts:

The battleground for autoworker organizing is shifting towards the south and west as the UAW seeks to grow its membership after securing contracts with the Detroit 3. Tesla recently announced anticipatory pay raises, mimicking recent moves by Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai. The challenge will be significant, but the UAW is leveraging its momentum to turn the tide of autoworker sentiment in the south. Keep an eye out for potential discussions that could reshape the landscape of labor within the industry.  

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