Why does Google think people want to Zoom from their cars?

·3-min read
Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai addressed the crowd at Google I/O 2023.
Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai addressed the crowd at Google I/O 2023.

Google announced it would add video conferencing apps to its Android-based built-in car software at the Google I/O annual conference on Wednesday (May 11).

Dubbed Android Auto, Google says the software will be available in 200 million cars by the end of the year. Specifically, the update will add functionality for Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Webex by Cisco, allowing drivers to “join important meetings without taking your eyes off the road.”

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“While we would all love to listen to music or catch up on our favorite podcast during our commute, sometimes traffic or work has other plans,” David Dandeneau, an engineering lead on the project, said when introducing the new functionality at the meeting. “[This feature allows you] to join a scheduled meeting without fumbling for your phone.”

It is just one of a slew of new features automakers have recently rolled out that are slowly turning cars into glorified computers. Google also announced that Android Auto users could now watch YouTube videos and play video games while parked.

The addition is part of a growing, post-pandemic expectation that employees will be able to work from anywhere and everywhere, apparently including moments when they are stuck in traffic. The different telework software applications will only be available in audio. Virtually no cars on the market feature a driver-facing camera.

Tesla already incorporated Zoom audio functionality into its in-car software last year, and Mercedes-Benz announced its “Superscreen” would feature Zoom and WebX functionality, as well as TikTok and Angry Birds.

Some safety advocates question the move, pointing to the increase in mileage death rates even throughout the pandemic when, relieved of their daily commutes, many drivers spent less time on the road.

Quotable: Everything is a computer these days

“We really designed the Model S to be a very sophisticated computer on wheels. Tesla is a software company as much as it is a hardware company. A huge part of what Tesla is, is a Silicon Valley software company. We view this the same as updating your phone or your laptop.”

— Tesla CEO Elon Musk (all the way back in 2015), who is considered one of the pioneers of adding personal tech to vehicles.

The tyranny of the touchscreen: Tech in cars by the digits

1986: The year the Buick Rivera, the first car to feature a touchscreen, was released. The screen was 3 inches x 4 inches and featured green text on a black display.

97%: Share of new cars that feature at least one touch screen.

25%: Share of new cars that have a “command display” larger than 11 inches.

17 inches: The size of the Tesla display, which was the first company to use touchscreen technology for almost all of the car’s features and functionality.

56 inches: The size of the Mercedes Benz EQS touchscreen, the largest in the industry. It is actually made up of three connected screens spanning the entire length of the dashboard.

60%: Average price increase for cars between 2012 and 2022.

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