Proton confirms Apple CarPlay, Android Auto support this year; X90 to get OTA update, but not older models

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Another Proton event, another round of questioning on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (AACP). At the ongoing Proton S70 media drive, the media asked for updates on AACP – which in case you forgot, Proton has confirmed will be coming, although it’s not ready in time for the S70.

Newly appointed head of R&D Mohd Haizam gave a straight answer that was to the point. “Today we’re still developing AACP with our supplier ACO Tech. It’s not on the S70, we go for the X90, but it’s going to be on our next model, coming soon,” he said, pointing out that sideloading software into the IHU voids warranty.

Proton’s default spokesman, deputy CEO Roslan Abdullah then took the floor, sharing about the challenges Proton faced with AACP. He explained that while some of the hardware (in current cars) is ready for AACP, ‘everything requires license’.

Proton confirms Apple CarPlay, Android Auto support this year; X90 to get OTA update, but not older models

“Whenever an OEM produces, a license is required. The license needs certain approval, and of course, at the end of the day, it’s how much we have to pay for the license. But the licensing is resolved, now we’re ready for one model (AACP introduction) starting this year,” he said, adding that AACP introduction will follow ‘protocol’.

What this effectively means is that the X90 SUV – Proton’s flagship model that already has hardware capable of AACP – is set to be the first model in the range to get AACP. Customers can expect an official announcement of an OTA software update in the near future. The next new model from Proton will have AACP from the factory.

The S70? The hardware is AACP ready, but Proton wants to avoid a ‘langkah bendul’ situation (Roslan’s words) and any update for the sedan will only come after big brother X90. What about older Geely-Proton models such as the X50 and X70? Roslan said that there are challenges from various aspects when it comes to retrofitting AACP. Basically, it’s down to hardware, cost and licensing.

AACP on the Proton X90’s IHU, but it’s clearly a development build for now

“I wont mention which model, but some models, the hardware is unable to be upgraded. Although we upgrade the software, the hardware, the chip, cannot carry AACP. Because the base of the IHU is based on China’s requirements, and they’re not very good with AACP, they use their own (software).

“Also, when we brought (in) the cars, we were stuck with the chips. Then when we talk about chips, the past two years, now it’s only stable, we were struggling to get the chips,” he said, referring to the global chip shortage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has now subsided.

Then there’s the issue of licensing. The Proton deputy CEO cum Proton Edar head acknowledges that customers will compare this situation with the ease of buying an AACP-enabled head unit off the shelf or online, but says that Proton is bound by the rules. “Buy from Shopee, they are not OEMs, they’re not bound by regulations. When it comes to OEMs, we have to follow the rules,” he said.

Proton confirms Apple CarPlay, Android Auto support this year; X90 to get OTA update, but not older models

The S70 comes too soon for Proton’s AACP, future OTA update after the X90 perhaps?

“I cannot say yes or no at the moment, but we’re keeping it open to address customer expectation,” he concluded. From how it sounds, there could be hope for recent models such as the S70 and the X70 MC from 2022, just don’t keep it too high.

We’ve previously looked into why AACP – a common function in other cars and now available in Peroduas – seems to be such a hurdle for Proton. The last time we talked to Roslan, he alluded to the geopolitical tension and tech rivalry between the US and China as a factor.

“Where is the source of this model (S70)? Where Google is not allowed. How to befriend Google for the license. And it seems like Google also does not want to be good friends with certain OEMs. We’re still discussing with Google to work with us, and it’s similar with Apple. To get the license is a bit of a hassle compared to other OEMs. The geopolitics make it difficult for us,” he said in November.

From L-R: AACP in the Chery Omoda 5 and BYD Dolphin

It must be noted though that Chinese brands such as Chery, GWM and BYD all have AACP in their cars here. Does Google or Apple have a specific issue with Geely then?

As to why AACP is not a given, first, you’ll need to understand how it’s like where Proton’s partner Geely is from. As many of you know, the services from Google, Meta and many of the other Western tech giants aren’t available in China, which has its own local champions and equivalents.

Chinese users simply prefer their own apps and services. Navigation apps like Alibaba’s AutoNavi and music streaming services like Tencent’s QQ Music take the place of Waze/Google Maps and Spotify, for instance. These services are usually either natively integrated into the car’s infotainment system or can be used in indigenous screen mirroring services like Baidu CarLife.

As such, there’s little incentive for Chinese carmakers to invest in AACP-compatible systems, and while some brands have made the effort, Geely isn’t one of them. The fact Proton is still working on it today is probably because AACP was not in the company’s original vision for its IHU. Anyway, if the lack of AACP is a dealbreaker for you, it will very soon cease to be a reason.

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