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Android Automotive: Who is collaborating with Google?


In the digital, connected world, infotainment technology is rapidly becoming the key differentiating factor between car models and car brands.

For many people, the size of the touchscreens inside as well as the functionality and intuitiveness of the software they run are as important as how the car drives, its appearance and reliability.

Android Automotive is one of the latest innovations in the infotainment world. An Android Automotive vehicle has the ability to display apps and services such as Google Maps and or the Google Assistant in the vehicle without the need for a connected phone.

The Google Assistant integration also gives it the ability to handle cabin tasks like controlling the air conditioning, in addition to its usual functionality.

How is Android Automotive different from other automotive products from Google and Android?

Google is famous for launching similar software platforms and services with almost identical names, and so it’s important to differentiate Android Automotive from other Google products for cars. .

Perhaps the best way to think of Android in an automotive context is to use the pie metaphor.

Android Open Source Project (AOSP) can be considered as base class of cake. It works as the foundation of Android and is a freely available version that automakers have adopted and modified to develop their own infotainment systems.

These systems may not have Google involvement or Google support, and it is possible that an auto manufacturer modified the AOSP independently (with what is known as a vehicle hardware abstraction layer). to ensure that it can work with interior functions such as radio, air conditioning control, and other features such as driving mode.

Older Honda models such as the discontinued previous generation Honda Jazz (in Australia) are examples of this, and car manufacturers can take this base class and build their own wheels when they see fit.

However, the developers behind AOSP have also decided to include their own reference layer on top of this as an applicable carmaker formula if they don’t want to use the above approach.

This class is an optional software element that allows AOSP to interact directly with the vehicle’s hardware functions with minimal modification that the automaker needs and is known as the AOSP automotive library.

One automaker that has chosen to use this recipe for their infotainment cake (AOSP with their automotive libraries) is using what Google classifies as Android Cars.

However, unless the automaker works directly with Google, this recipe does not include official Google technical support.

The top layer of a cake can often be the tastiest and most appealing, and this is a fitting description for Google Automotive Services (GAS) that sits on top of Android Cars.

GAS is the top layer that includes Google-branded apps like Google Maps, Google Play, and the Google Assistant. Unlike the previous layers, the GAS top layer is not open source.

An automaker must first adopt Android Automotive, and then sign a separate contract with Google to implement these applications. Another benefit of this approach is the official endorsement, technical and customer support from Google.

If a car is advertised as having ‘Google built-in’, it’s likely that the car is using Android Cars with Google Automotive’s leading services.

Like Android smartphones, another factor to keep in mind is that Android Automotive (with or without GAS) allows automakers the freedom to apply their own flavors to the cakes they bake, as their own user interface.

This means that – in the same way that a Samsung smartphone looks different from a Google Pixel, even though both run Android – Android Automotive on Renault will have a different look and feel than running on a RAM truck or Volvo.

This gives designers the ability to imbue Android Automotive with the specific design themes of the particular automaker they work with.

How does Android Auto compare? Android Auto can best be considered a separate dish for the AOSP and Android Automotive described above.

Instead of being built into the car, it requires an active and functioning Android smartphone to project a driver-friendly user interface that includes certain apps and services that can be installed on the user’s phone on the car’s main infotainment screen.

To make matters more confusing, this technically means that vehicles running Android Automotive can also support Android Auto.

However, if the car’s version of Android Automotive also includes GAS, doing so would be redundant since many of the apps that Android Auto can mirror, such as Google Maps, are already in the car.

For more information on the difference between Android Car and Android Auto, please see previous article detail the difference between them.

Take a look at what’s currently on the market if you’re looking for a vehicle equipped with Android Automotive.

Vehicles available with Android Automotive and Google Automotive Services (GAS)

Volvo and Polestar are slowly evolving into separate brands, but they continue to have a close relationship in sharing parts and platforms within the broader Geely empire.

The Polestar 2 liftback sedan is the first widely available model in the Volvo and Polestar family to adopt Android Automotive with GAS and Polestar has already confirmed future models, such as the soon to be revealed Polestar 3 SUV, will continue to follow this approach as the basis for their infotainment system.

Android Automotive also allows Polestar 2 drivers to reduce the amount of time their eyes are diverted from the road by integrating Google Maps in the digital instrument cluster.

In Volvo’s stabilization system, the electric XC40 Recharge is the first model in the lineup to adopt Android Automotive with GAS. However, all MY23 models in the Volvo range, including the 90, 60 and 40 Series models now feature Android Automotive with GAS, replacing Volvo’s previous in-house Sensus Connect infotainment system.

Unlike the 11-inch central infotainment screen used in the Polestar 2, Volvo models continue to use a smaller 9.0-inch portrait infotainment screen to display Android Automotive.

Renault previously used only the base-layer Android Open Source Project (AOSP) as the foundation for its internal R-Link infotainment system. With new models like the Megane E-Tech Electric and Austral SUV, the brand is transitioning to the next-generation OpenR Link infotainment system.

OpenR Link is based on Android Automotive with GAS and can be displayed via the high-resolution portrait 12-inch infotainment system, accompanied by a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster at the top end of the vehicle. range.

Renault claims both screens are highly customizable, such as the digital instrument cluster, which offers four themes including a minimalist Zen layout.

The Megane E-Tech is expected to launch in Australia by the end of 2023. Unfortunately, it’s currently unclear if and when, the new Austral SUV will make a local debut.

General Motors also announced a range of new models featuring Android Automotive and GAS. The vehicles best suited to our market include the Chevrolet Silverado HD 2024 and the GMC Hummer EV, while other models in the GM stable that adopt this approach include the Cadillac Lyriq, GMC Sierra, and Chevrolet Suburban.

Vehicles only available with Android Cars (except Google Car Services)

The Stellantis empire brands are perhaps the best examples of vehicles with Android Automotive, but not familiar Google services (such as the Google Assistant).

This includes Stellantis vehicles that use the Uconnect 5 infotainment system, such as the MaseratiGrecale, MC20, GranTurismo, as well as the Chrysler Pacifica and Dodge Durango.

Instead of GAS, Stellantis chose to use Amazon Alexa as the voice assistant of choice and TomTom as the map provider. Opting out of GAS also allows Maserati to easily include Tidal as an integrated music service provider.

Lucid, which is currently only available in North America (expected to launch in Europe soon), also uses Android Automotive without GAS, opting instead to use Alexa as its built-in voice assistant.

Brands and models coming soon

Honda has announced that it will switch from AOSP only to Android Automotive in the near future, with the brand claiming in 2021 the first cars so equipped will launch in 2022.

It is likely that Honda’s implementation will also use GAS, as the brand has confirmed that users will be able to access Google Maps and the Google Play Store.

Likewise, Ford has announced it will apply Android Automotive with GAS on various models, including the F-150 from production in 2023, to underpin its Sync 4 operating system. This marks a significant change from Ford’s previous use of the QNX.

BMW has also announced that for certain models, it will integrate Android Automotive in Operating System 8 (also known as iDrive 8) from 2023.

Based on recent news that BMW will also use Amazon Alexa as the foundation for the next generation of its voice assistant, it is unlikely that BMW’s adoption of Android Automotive will include GAS as well.

Sibling’s Mini brand could also take a similar approach with future models, especially after the recent announcement that the Concept Aceman features a circular OLED display running the AOSP version.

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