At the last Geneva Motor Show, Apple debuted its first foray into the automotive marketplace, showing off its new CarPlay system to legions of automotive journalist and fans alike. Given the speed with which technology advances and the ever-intensifying mobile arms race between Android and iOS, it has always seemed logical that Android would eventually follow up with an automotive operating system of its own. On June 25, Google announced Android Auto, a new automotive operating system designed to radically simplify the future auto dashboards and to provide seamless integration between a driver’s car, smartphone and media.
In the most basic sense, Android Auto is quite similar to Apple’s new CarPlay software. It is designed to streamline automotive infotainment systems, which have historically been convoluted and clunky at best and dangerously distracting at worst. To address this, Android Auto was specifically designed to focus on basic minimalism and, by extent, safety.
Breaking with tradition, Google has designed an automotive operating system that has very little to do with the computational abilities of the car. Android Auto functions using a driver’s phone rather than the car’s computers, which allows for constant updates. As the average update cycle for a phone is much shorter than that for a car, this will allow drivers to have access to the latest updates without the need to shell out a large amount of money for a hardware upgrade.
The app has sections for phone, music, navigation and car status, as well as a central home screen that allows drivers to access all other information. A large number of automotive brands have announced pending partnerships with Android Auto, including Acura, Bentley, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Ford, Honda and Nissan. Many of these brands will also be offering Apple CarPlay. There is no defined differentiating factor for brands that are looking to offer one or the other. Most major brands, with the exceptions of Volkswagen and Toyota, will offer both systems. Both systems have roughly equal numbers of exclusive brands and luxury marques. The only differentiating factor in favor of either system may be Android’s worldwide adoption, which is significantly higher than that of Apple’s, particularly in developing countries.
Despite this, it’s too early to know if either one of these systems will come out on top. It may be irrelevant either way. What is significant is that the increasing emphasis on streamlining the driving experience will continue to have a large effect on the automotive sector, paving the way for other large technological developments in the coming years.
[Sources: Tier10lab, Android Headlines, Android, The Verge, Time, Twitter]