Rivian CEO Tries To Defend Lack Of Apple CarPlay

Opinion / 10 Comments

We don't buy it. But we sort of get it.

Rivian's founder and CEO, RJ Scaringe, was asked to address the lack of Apple CarPlay in its models on the WVFRM Podcast, and his reasoning isn't compelling.

"A lot of the things we do, whether it's music or mapping, we have to make sure we integrate in with the best-in-class platforms," Scaringe said, sitting in a Rivian R1T truck for the interview. "But by controlling the system, it just allows us to be the arbiter, or the head chef, in terms of the experience you get versus handing over control of what we think is one of the most important parts of the experience."

2022-2023 Rivian R1T Truck Front Angle View Rivian

The fact of the matter is that over 98% of cell phones globally use either Google or Apple's operating system, and both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay offer the closest to a seamless way to connect a phone to a car, to the point that it's one of the first questions many potential car purchasers will ask.

Tesla is the only other holdout, but GM has recently announced it plans to drop Apple CarPlay and Android Auto from its future EVs. And in all three cases, it seems to be about control rather than giving customers the options that suit them best.

2022-2023 Rivian R1T Truck Dashboard Rivian

"The thing about controlling the software stack is we get to continually make it better," Scaringe continued. "Every few weeks, we have a new software release that either adds features, or addresses gaps; we listen to feedback. Our head of software development is on Reddit all the time, hearing what people are saying and interacting. It's great to get the feedback, and it drives our software roadmap to make sure we're delivering on what customers want."

We'll skate by the fact that by being on Reddit all the time, the head of software is only getting Reddit user's input, which seems short-sighted, and point out that Apple CarPlay (and Android Auto) aren't integral to a software stack.

2022-2023 Rivian R1S SUV Central Console Rivian

Neither features take over the entire software experience. They're just added components that, as far as we know, have no relationship to how often software updates can be rolled out. Those systems are updated separately - in fact, Apple CarPlay has a new update coming later this year.

We don't buy Scaringe's point there, but we do buy the control aspect. By controlling the apps people use and the navigation system, automakers have complete access to the user's data, and data is incredibly valuable. That doesn't mean Rivian or other automakers are selling data; the value is also to the companies themselves.

Apple CarPlay Honda

However, there is a flip side to this. More and more automakers are integrating Google properly into their systems, which gives Google, the company with the most information on the planet, even more information. If a company isn't selling your data but using it anonymously to improve its business, then that's an improvement in privacy. On the other hand, most of us are happy with Google and Apple collecting our data in exchange for incredibly useful systems built on the data the two companies collect.

Here are the bottom lines for Rivian, Tesla, and GM, though: If you give people the choice of using your system and one of the two systems they're overwhelmingly likely to want to use, you have a shot at satisfying all of your customers. If you lock them into just your system, then your system better be fantastic and as good as that made by companies specializing in software and have been at the top of the game for decades. If you're having to update every three weeks when Apple 's update schedule is measured in years, that should tell you something.

2022-2023 Rivian R1S SUV Dashboard Rivian

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