Google announces its “Android Automotive” in-car infotainment system
California,May16:Google has (finally) formally announced its “Android Automotive” in-car infotainment system. The company has signed a deal with Audi and Volvo to bring a car-focused version of Android to market, with Google building and licensing the OS for car makers just as it does for phone OEMs. Both Audi and Volvo will build Google’s version of car Android into “their next generation” of cars.
Today Google’s only spot in the automotive market is Android Auto, which is not an operating system. Android Auto is a “casted” interface that runs on a smartphone and uses the in-dash car display as an external touchscreen monitor. This new initiative (called “Android Automotive” in Google’s Android compatibility documentation) is a full operating system that runs directly on the car’s onboard computers.
Google has shown off two version of the infotainment system in the past. One with a Google-designed interface, which would be similar to a “Pure Google” Pixel phone, and one that has been skinned with a custom interface from Fiat-Chrysler, which is similar to what Android smartphone partners like Samsung and LG do.
The photos included with the announcement speak volumes. They show Volvo’s skinned version of an Android-based car infotainment system. It looks very close to what Volvo ships in cars today, with an iPad-shaped screen, a funky “accordion” interface, a pull-down top panel, and bottom A/C controls. None of the Google interface survives in this demo of Volvo’s system.
Several car manufacturers including Honda and Hyundai ship Android on cars today, but without Google’s involvement. This leads to ancient versions of Android running on cars that never get updated. Honda ships the 2012-era Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean on the 2017 Honda Accord; Hyundai is even worse, shipping Android 2.3 Gingerbread.
What Google brings to the table is a modern underlying version of Android, Google apps like Google Maps, and some kind of app solution for third-party apps like Spotify. Google’s app solution is a big question for this car Android OS—is there a version of the Google Play Store on-board? Are the Android Automotive apps different from Android Auto?
A demo of the system will be on display at Google I/O later this week, where we’ll try to learn as much as we can about Google’s new project. Ars also happens to have a deep dive on the world of car infotainment systems due out later this week.