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General Motors' chief infotainment officer: Phil Abram


P100DL, 2021 M3, 4 CT reservations and counting
Supporting Member
Dec 25, 2011
My mountain
Skimmed through the 2000 word article (I'm guessing) and just did a keyword search for "Tesla" and this popped out.

Thoughts? I've got some, but I want to read the whole article first cuz my first thought is wow, this guy just doesn't get it...or maybe he does in a more nuanced way...not sure yet...here's the link to the full Ziegler novella on The Verge(I love Chris really, but this one is longggg): http://www.theverge.com/2015/10/31/9647204/gm-phil-abram-infotainment-carplay-android-auto-interview

I know Tesla’s getting away with stuff that, you know, their customers are essentially beta testers for them in a lot of regards. And people love it! They know what they’re being asked to go through, and the fact that they had 32 updates… I’d be freaking, I know some people who would freak out that they had 32 updates. My God, why didn’t they get it right upfront, what are they doing? And other people are like, cool, that’s great, just keep on working at it. My windshield wipers didn’t work the other day, now they do. Great! But we wouldn’t have put the vehicle in the market if the wipers didn’t work, and so, once again, the acceptance of these things change by those demographics and those markets. So what Mark was saying was we’re going to have a little more latitude to try some things that maybe wouldn’t be as accommodating to a broad customer base where we have to be a little more conservative in our approach.
Well, I certainly don't remember any update that broke/fixed windshield wipers (or any other safety critical aspect). Worst my car did was listen to music on its own. Annoying, but hardly a safety item. But I guess if you are determined to see Tesla/software as safety deficient you can make up all sorts of issues that they might have.

I wonder if Mr. Abram's (mistaken) view is representative of how GM views Tesla and Tesla's customers? Quite shocking really to have GM of all companies, criticizing Tesla on safety. Seems like most car companies are afraid of software. I'm glad Tesla doesn't share this apparent fear of software, and views software updates as a good thing. It seems like GM thinks all software updates do is fix critical safety items (which in GMs case might be true, as they have to recall so many cars for critical safety issues).
Ugh, I just watched the review of CarPlay, OMG, how frustrating is that touchscreen? And if all the processing for render is on the phone, it must either be performance of the touchscreen or the lag of the connnection or maybe there is some amount of processing to send commands to the car. I can't even imagine settling for that UI in a car that is so beautiful, modern and fast. I'm so spoiled by the S...anyway

Ok, I think I want to score his answers from a software and customer satisfaction point of view. While I realize he might have other business concerns and probably has to say things for CYA, some of this is really off the mark.

Also, I don't want to copy and paste more of the meat of the article as I love The Verge and that is bad karma, so questions only! Go to the article to see his answers!

Do you have a date or a vision of a date for when you’ll be at 100 percent — if not Android Auto and CarPlay compatibility, at least having a touchscreen in the center stack?

Score C-
Abram is missing CZ's point. You will need to have a solution that offers connectivity for all cars or another car company will and will dominate in that area. Customers have the phone in their hand and you'll need to make something that can extend that for all your cars eventually; maybe fleet cars aside. Monitors are cheap as chips; even automotive grade.

Does the specter of a Google car and an Apple car affect your strategy for supporting these systems? Do you think of it as a trojan horse of sorts?

Score B-
Abram seems to answer a different question, but let's tackle CZ's question. Trojan horse? Well, let's see. Ability to work with the car industry, learn how they work, the things that they are concerned about, like specifications tech companies know nothing about and how to get things certified, signed off from 3rd parties and such....so yeah, Ziegler asks it in a way that allows Abram to not really see the intent. Where the real intent is that tech companies can hire people from the auto industry, but they can also do parallel work paths and integrate much quicker than car companies so why not build a platform that will entice car companies to party on top and when those car companies have difficulty well, those tech companies can come in and 'help out'. See Microsoft Sync, but done in a not so good way. Trojan horse? Totally and maybe Abram doesn't get it just yet. I reckon he is just not that used to software even though spending some time at Sonos as the time at Sony does not count at all IMHO.

And all of the processing power is on the phone?

Score D+
Again, seems to answer a different question altogether. He puts up a huge sign and waves it around that says "I get it, I get it, we are doing the right thing!!!" as well as the weird "no, we aren't letting them into our sacred HVAC code domain". Abram seems to think GM is taking huge steps in what they are doing and maybe it is just the tip of the ice berg, but it feels like the Titanic. I would expect a visionary to say something along the lines of "we are getting in close with these guys to make what customers want and we'll keep pushing this by implementing better and faster ways of delivering the things that they want, when they want them"

Can you give me some examples?

Score ugh-
Not even sure where to start with this one. Abram explains that the car needs to be connected and that is needs to be part of its ecosystem and ugh, he just doesn't get it. Let the phone be connected and provide the car the needed information. Yes, the car can have connectivity on it's own, connect to wifi and cellular, but allow the phone to be primary, remove the dependencies from the car and allow it to move at the speed of phones

But in iOS 9, CarPlay now supports vehicle apps that can appear as part of the phone projection, right? And Android Auto already had that capability.

Score...wait, I give up, now he's defending his stance that GM drove the SDK??? WTF? Highly doubtful! This is the tech companies ticket into the automotive world, write the SDK and work closely with actual developers and then embedded automotive engineers and learn how it all works from the inside out. I see Abram defending his position to make it look more like he is the genesis of this and it is his vision to have the phone connect in the car, but only infotainment and not anything else since he has not say over that part of the business. Yeah car companies!

Are you aware of any plans to expand the level of data that is available to the phone? Could we see a future system where that integration is tighter than it is today?

Score...and scene! Yeah, this guy is typical auto, wow, how depressing, was hoping to hear something much more visionary...OMG, now he's defending more knobs and buttons, oh the humanity!

There are so many more quotes from this guy that truly miss the mark of the connected future that I'm just laughing now.

So far I've found: 42 :)
He's right-- Tesla deploys a lot of half-baked features (v1 lane departure warning system; 6.2 "end of range anxiety" nav fiasco; 6.x lane change acceleration noob mode).

But, 32 updates also means a company that is dedicated to continuous improvement and risk half-bakedness for innovation. Yea, he's right, I'm good with that trade-off. So are most people of the current generation of consumers. My car 85d got a lot faster, smarter, easier to use, and awesomer in its interface since I bought it. I can't say the same for any GM vehicle.

- K
Dear Mr Phil Abram,

If it takes 32 updates to speed up and improve the infotainment system on GM's 2011 Volt, it would be worth the "beta testing". Please send over-the-air updates to #379 ASAP.


2011 Chevy Volt Owner
Dear Mr Phil Abram,

If it takes 32 updates to speed up and improve the infotainment system on GM's 2011 Volt, it would be worth the "beta testing". Please send over-the-air updates to #379 ASAP.


2011 Chevy Volt Owner



I could add a list of other items GM won't fix also.

Soon to be former 2013 Volt Lessee (That little voice told me "DO NOT buy this car, lease it")
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My only thought on this: (And I am a lifelong GM owner)...

My 2014 Chevy Truck has HAD TO GO BACK to the dealer because of numerous bugs in the INFOTAINMENT system on 3 different occasions.

And another recall for a software update to address an engine issue.

Im a BETA tester for GM as well it seems - but with GM, I have to waste hours going to the dealership.

Seems to me OTA is the way to go.
But we wouldn’t have put the vehicle in the market if the wipers didn’t work

I wonder, do these people actually believe the obvious nonsense they spout, or do they know they're ********ting and do it anyway? Do they think they're fooling anybody? GM has got to be the last car manufacturer that would be on the list of "always gets it right the first time."
I wonder, do these people actually believe the obvious nonsense they spout, or do they know they're ********ting and do it anyway? Do they think they're fooling anybody? GM has got to be the last car manufacturer that would be on the list of "always gets it right the first time."

I don't think the GM "infotainment" guy meant the windshield wiper statement to be taken literally. I think the point he was making was that Tesla owners as beta testers (his point) are more forgiving of issues than mainstream car buyers. He could be right about his theory but he picked a bad example (safety issue) to make his point which I think was intentional and not warranted given his company's reputation and lack of moral authority.
Even if his specific example isn't taken literally, he's still saying overall that GM's approach is to get it right the first time or else they don't ship the car, and Tesla's approach is to ship first and get it working later. But GM doesn't do that, they're just not as loud about fixing problems after the fact, so he's just spouting nonsense.
I would focus on some of his thoughts on what level of integration he sees with smart phones; the roles of buttons and knobs vs touch screens on a vehicle user interface; and the duplication of control method depending on the mode the vehicle is in. He's thought pretty deeply about this and the superficial comments about "GM gets things wrong, too" is just silly. The comment at the end about customers being more comfortable with an iterative process in a Bolt rather than a LaCrosse is directly related to the approach Tesla takes. And it sounds like he's not discounting the potential for a different approach at GM.
GM vehicles do not need OTA updates as they are shipped via USPS and include free shipping! Just order before the offer expires...
My 2013 Leaf had to be brought into the dealer twice so they could preform recall item software updates. How silly that sounds.

I have been there too. This same Volt quit accepting a charge twice (during the past year) because of "outdated software" and had to be updated at the dealer. A 1/2 day process both times.

- - - Updated - - -

GM does provide OTA updates through OnStar, although they're quite limited at this point compared to what Tesla does.

Just curious, what can be updated via OnStar? Our updates always include a trip to the dealer. Fortunately, GM has provided a free rental car although that will end when the warranty expires this December.