Sometime in the not-too-distant future, cars from many automakers could feature a version of Google's Android operating system built directly into the vehicles.
If Google's plans take shape, its operating system will power the car's entertainment and navigation systems, connect it to the Internet, and integrate with the vehicle's sensors, camera, fuel gauge and other components.
That's according to a report by Reuters Dec. 19 that it said was based on conversations with two unnamed officials with knowledge of the matter. According to Reuters, Google could announce plans for integrating Android directly into cars when it rolls out Android M, the successor to its recently released Android 5.0 Lollipop operating system, sometime next year.
Google did not confirm or deny the report. In an email, the company merely noted that it does not comment on rumors and speculation.
But if Google were indeed to integrate Android directly into vehicles someday, that would mark a significant step forward for the company. At the I/O conference this year, Google announced Android Auto, software that will allow drivers to basically stream most of their smartphone's functions to the in-car display. Android Auto is expected out next year. It will allow drivers to take advantage of Google Maps, Google Now and other Android applications more easily when driving using simple voice commands and touch commands.
With the new version of Android that Google is reportedly working on, drivers will no longer be required to connect their phones to the vehicle. Instead, a lot of the same functionality that is currently available on Android smartphones will be accessible directly from the vehicle in a manner that is optimized for in-vehicle use.
Google's big challenge though will be to persuade automakers to integrate its technology into their vehicles. Google has said that Android Auto will be available in vehicles from several major domestic and international automakers, including Ford, Chrysler, Honda and Audi.
However, some automakers may be wary of giving the company too much access to internal components for safety reasons and because of branding concerns, Reuters noted.
Google will also have to deal with the myriad safety concerns that have been expressed over connected cars recently. Security researchers have already shown how hackers can exploit a connected vehicle's electronic control unit and take remote control of functions like steering, braking and acceleration.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration highlighted several of those concerns in a report on connected cars earlier this year while advocating the need for intrusion detection, access control and other security technologies in vehicles over the next few years. One of the areas of concerns highlighted in the report has to do with in-vehicle entertainment and navigation systems becoming potential attack vectors in connected cars of the future.
For safety-conscious automakers to allow any version of Android to be integrated into their vehicles, Google will likely have to first considerably bolster the security of the operating system. Currently, Android is one of the most attacked operating systems in the world, with more malware targeting it than any other mobile operating system.