Google has announced its intent to expand the scope of its Android operating system. In a recently published blog post, the company states that it will be integrating Android directly into in-car infotainment systems, and the first companies who will include Android-based infotainment interfaces are Volvo and Audi. Google already has Android Auto as a system-on-interface service, which essentially mirrors Android smartphones on to a car's infotainment display. With the new system, Google will be installing Android directly into the in-car systems, which will function without relying on a smartphone.
So, how does this change things? For the end-user, most functionalities will be retained from Android Auto. However, there are tangible benefits. As Haris Ramic, Product Manager for Android at Google explains, "Your car’s built-in infotainment system could allow you to control your air conditioning, sunroof, and windows, find the nearest restaurant with Google Maps, listen to Spotify or NPR, or just ask your Google Assistant for help—even when you leave your phone behind."
It is this that Google aims to build upon. By stitching Android directly into an in-car system, Google will convert the infotainment system into a smartphone of sorts, which will have its own Internet connectivity, and function similar to an Android smartphone. The present Android Auto interface requires an elaborate connectivity procedure, after which it requires you to enable requisite permissions and get the Android interface over the car's default infotainment firmware. With the upcoming service, Google wants to make Android work independently from smartphones. User account synchronisations may possibly be used to enable remote calling and messaging services, along with music streaming and navigation systems. While Android Auto includes these services, using Android on infotainment interfaces will include more options.
Android-powered infotainment systems will include controls for in-car systems as well, including a car's mechanical data and operations such as windows, sunroof, mirrors and climate control. Google wants to integrate all of this into the infotainment system within Android, although it has not explained if these features would also be accessible from a corresponding Android smartphone as well. The in-car system may also be able to facilitate usage of apps directly on the infotainment console and not depend on their compatibility with Android Auto. Hence, the infotainment system will possibly have access to a significantly more number of apps.
A possible counter-argument lies in the extent of security threats that running Android in car systems may pose. That, though, is discussion for another day. Google will be demonstrating its services at I/O, which commences tomorrow, May 17. The new system will allow Google to knit Android more efficiently on to an infotainment system than what Android Auto presently offers, and this will possibly allow car makers to offer varying interfaces with easy customisability (customising car elements is typically an expensive affair today) and wider range of features.
It is this that seems to be the tangible benefits, more of which shall be revealed tomorrow, at Google I/O.