Google Deepens Relationship With Audi for In-Car Information Systems

Google and Audi are expected to announce the joint development of new Android in-car systems at the January Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

in-car tech

Google has for some time been working with automakers to provide and develop in-car maps and navigation systems, but now the company is preparing to unveil bigger plans to create an in-car infotainment system based on Android in partnership with German automaker Audi.

The plans for the joint development project are to be unveiled at the January 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, according to a Dec. 30 report in The Wall Street Journal.

The report, which is based on unnamed sources who are familiar with the plans, also stated that Google competitor Apple is working on similar collaborative efforts using its own iOS technologies with other automakers.

Google plans to "disclose collaborative efforts with other automotive and tech companies, including chip maker Nvidia Corp., to establish Android as an important technology for future vehicles," according to the report. "The aim is to allow drivers and passengers to access music, navigation, apps and services that are similar to those widely available now on Android-powered smartphones," the sources told The Journal.

"Besides its partnership with [Google], Audi is expected to demonstrate new technologies that allow cars to drive themselves in certain situations and for short periods, and to lay out a timetable to offer them on new models due to arrive over the next four or five years, people familiar with the matter" told the newspaper.

Apple has been also working with carmakers on similar initiatives for some time. In June, Apple announced its iOS in the Car project to help meld technologies into vehicles.

The idea with the Google-Audi partnership is to "have Android and related applications running on the car's own built-in hardware" in the future, according to The Journal report.

When asked about The Journal report, a spokesperson for Google said, "Google doesn't comment on rumors or speculation."

Google has certainly been working with automakers in the past on such projects.

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.

Kia's UVO offers drivers hands-free mobile phone management capabilities, hands-free music control from a variety of sources—including CDs, radio, a USB music player and the in-car Digital Jukebox—and an enhanced telematics suite.

Among the key features in those deals are Google Integration for the use of Google Maps and Google Places; Car Care Web, a portal that enables drivers to check vehicle diagnostics, status and maintenance schedules; My POI, which enables users to send a Google Maps destination to their cars from their smartphones; a Parking Minder that offers several ways to help forgetful folks locate a car or remember to feed a meter; and 911 Connect, which within 10 seconds of an airbag deployment calls emergency services and puts vehicle occupants in contact with an operator.

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. Google has also 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.

In June 2013, Google expanded its in-vehicle mapping services with the acquisition of the Waze crowd-based traffic and navigation app for mobile devices. Google paid $1.3 billion to acquire the Israeli community-based traffic and navigation app startup Waze to add to Google's growing portfolio of popular and revenue-enhancing mapping tools. Waze is a mobile navigation app for iPhones and Google Android devices that lets drivers build and use live maps, real-time traffic updates and turn-by-turn navigation. Waze works by allowing users to crowd-source their commutes and other trips using the app to report traffic jams, accidents and other traffic details along the way.

For additional information, here is a listing of 11 GPS apps now available.