Google Works With Automakers to Bring Android Into More Vehicles

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2014-01-06

Google Works With Automakers to Bring Android Into More Vehicles

Google is joining a new effort with several automakers to make Android a key platform to add high-technology features into the vehicles of tomorrow.

The new Open Automotive Alliance (OAA) is a partnership between Google, Audi, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and graphics vendor Nvidia that is "aimed at accelerating auto innovation with an approach that offers openness, customization and scale," according to a Jan. 6 post by Patrick Brady, director of Android Engineering, on the Android Official Blog.

"In this multi-screen world, switching between our different devices should be easy and seamless," wrote Brady. "Common platforms allow for one connected experience across our phone, tablet and PC, so we get the right information at the right time, no matter what device we're using. But there's still an important device that isn't yet connected as seamlessly to the other screens in our lives—the car."

That's where the new OAA will work to change this situation, wrote Brady.

"Today, millions of people already bring Android phones and tablets into their cars, but it's not yet a driving-optimized experience," he wrote. "Wouldn't it be great if you could bring your favorite apps and music with you, and use them safely with your car's built-in controls and in-dash display? Together with our OAA partners, we're working to enable new forms of integration with Android devices, and adapting Android for the car to make driving safer, easier and more enjoyable for everyone."

The idea is that by integrating Android more deeply into vehicles, users of Android mobile devices will be able to gain better access to apps and services in their vehicles, while enabling automakers to more easily deliver cutting-edge technology to their customers, according to the post. The deeper integration will also "create new opportunities for developers to extend the variety and depth of the Android app ecosystem in new, exciting and safe ways," wrote Brady.

"But this is just the beginning; we welcome other automotive and technology companies to join the OAA, to work together to build a common platform to drive innovation in the car and bring Android to the open road," he wrote.

In a statement from the OAA, Ricky Hudi, head of Electrics/Electronics Development at Audi AG, said: "The worlds of consumer and automotive technologies have never been more closely aligned, and this alliance will only pave the way for faster innovation. Working toward a common ecosystems benefits driver safety above all."

Mary Chan, president of General Motors' Global Connected Consumer unit, said in a statement: "Partnering with Google and the OAA on an ecosystem that spans across vehicles and handheld mobile devices furthers our mission to bring vehicles into our owners' digital lives and their digital lives into their vehicles. We see huge opportunities for the Android platform paired with OnStar 4G LTE connectivity in future Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles."

And Yoshiharu Yamamoto, president, CEO and director of Honda R&D Co., Ltd., said in a statement: "We are very pleased to join this alliance with Google as a founding member because Honda is committed to providing the very best connected-car experience to our customers. The Honda team is looking forward to collaborating with Google and all OAA members to help advance the safety, value and ease of use of connected-car technologies."

New Android features and integrations in vehicles will begin to be seen by the end of this year, according to the OAA.

Google Works With Automakers to Bring Android Into More Vehicles

Google has certainly been working with automakers in the past on various in-car projects.

Just last week, Hyundai announced that Google Glass and other wearable devices will be able to be used by drivers to remotely and wirelessly operate some of the features of the 2015 Hyundai Genesis automobile. The new capabilities are being featured today at the PEPCOM Digital Experience event in Las Vegas, just before the huge 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) opens. The Genesis remote features will be made possible through Hyundai's cloud-based Blue Link platform, which will let owners of the vehicles connect wirelessly to a wide array of features using Glass or other wearable computing devices, according to Hyundai.

The company will launch a Blue Link Glassware app to enable the connection between Glass and the Genesis vehicles. The app, which is still under development, will be available for the new Genesis, which will be released in the spring of 2014 as a 2015 model vehicle, said Johnson, who has already used the app and seen its functions.

The wearable device apps will join existing mobile app offerings that Hyundai already offers to consumers. The apps for Google Glass and other wearable devices will only include the most useful and relevant information to drivers since the small screens only allow a small amount of information to be displayed, according to Hyundai.

"On Google Glass, vehicle information will be presented as cards optimized for the Glass user interface," the company stated in its announcement. "Push notifications will alert the owner when maintenance is due and allow quick service scheduling by enabling the wearer to initiate a call using the device's built-in functionality."

The announcement is also interesting in light of the ongoing legal case of a California woman who was ticketed in October 2013 for operating her automobile while wearing Google Glass. Cecelia Abadie, 44, of Temecula, Calif., pleaded not guilty at a court hearing in December and will go to trial on Jan. 16. Her attorney will argue that she was only wearing the device and not using it when she was stopped.

In 2010, Hyundai launched its then-new Equus sedan with an iPad application that replaced the vehicle owner's manual with a digital, interactive version, according to the company. In the summer of 2013, Hyundai unveiled a new Car Care app that allows vehicle owners to schedule service, look up maintenance schedules, read quick reference guides and more.

Hyundai has also launched Blue Link apps for iOS and Android platforms for vehicle owners, according to the company.

In January 2013, Google announced deals for connected-car technologies with Hyundai and Kia Motors America to bring new mobile capabilities to drivers and vehicles. The Google deals included bringing Google Maps application programming interfaces (APIs) to Hyundai's Blue Link telematics platform and Google content and search-based APIs to the second version of Kia's UVO eServices telematics system. Hyundai Blue Link offers applications and mobile features to drivers. New features included a Send to Car feature for smartphones, Point of Interest (POI) Search and Local Search by Voice.

Google has previously teamed up with Audi for voice-controlled local search information and satellite and Street View imagery, according to a previous eWEEK report. And Google has previously partnered with Daimler, which offers Mercedes-Benz A-Class drivers a Digital DriveStyle App providing Google local search, as well as Zagat ratings; and Tesla Motor Co., which offers Google Maps to drivers of its Tesla Model S. In the latter, Google Earth and Street View images are, one imagines, particularly easy to view, as the car features an in-dash 17-inch display.

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