Honda Shows Off Connect In-Car Android Entertainment System

Honda's new Connect audio and infotainment system, which will debut in some European models in 2015, features Nvidia's latest Tegra mobile processor.

Honda infotainment

Honda's upcoming Connect in-car infotainment embedded Android system has many of the latest communications and navigational tools that Americans might want, but for now, it's aimed only at Europe where it will appear in 2015 in specific Honda vehicles.

That's the latest word from Honda and its technology partner, Nvidia, which are showing off the new Connect system at this week's Paris Auto Show. Built around Nvidia's latest Tegra mobile processor, the Honda Connect in-car audio and information system will arrive in Honda's 2015 Civic, Civic Tourer and CR-V models in Europe, but no U.S. debut for the system has yet been announced.

Connect is an embedded Android 4.0.4 infotainment system that uses the automotive-grade Tegra processor to run a 7-inch capacitive touch-screen display for satellite navigation, AM/FM/DAB, rearview camera and vehicle information, according to Nvidia.

"Honda is bringing Nvidia's advanced mobile technology to an important new segment of vehicles," Rob Csongor, vice president and general manager for Nvidia's automotive division, said in a statement. The Tegra processor "leverages Android to deliver an open, flexible infotainment platform … that bridges the world of smartphone apps and the requirements of the automotive industry but, most importantly, does so in a way that makes driving safer."

Honda will be the 19th global automaker to use Nvidia technology for in-vehicle infotainment systems, according to Nvidia. So far, some 6 million vehicles on the road today include Nvidia processors, while another 25 million are expected to be integrated into vehicles over the next five years, according to the company.

Nvidia spokesman Alan Hall told eWEEK in a telephone interview from the Paris Auto Show on Oct. 3 that while the launch of the new system is slated for Europe first, there is not yet an announced timetable for when it might arrive in Honda vehicles in the United States.

"We do expect that there will be other announcements with Honda in the future," said Hall. "But at the current time, it's just for Hondas in Europe."

The in-car system "very much mirrors an Android tablet experience" for users, he said. "It's something that customers will just gravitate to" because it works just like the tablets they have at home. "It's a great way to present information" in a vehicle, he said. "You will be able to use it with the same kinds of Android apps that you can already use on your smartphones and tablets."

The touch-screen in the Connect system allows users to make gestures, such as pinching, zooming and swiping, to make selections and find needed services and programs, according to Nvidia.

The new Honda system is the first vehicle infotainment system using embedded Android as the operating system on Tegra processors, according to an Nvidia blog post.

Connected cars and the capabilities they offer have been advancing steadily in the last several years.

In September, General Motors hired its first-ever product cyber-security chief to help the automaker tighten mobile security for drivers and owners of its mobile-connected cars and trucks. Jeffrey Massimilla, who formerly was an engineering group manager for infotainment at GM, was brought in to the new post as part of a reorganization of GM's engineering operations. More and more GM vehicles have been receiving cellular and other capabilities that allow drivers to operate smartphones and other devices hands-free or to use built-in vehicle systems for personal communications.

In May 2014, AT&T added General Motors to its growing list of vehicle makers that are including connected services in their cars and trucks. Under that deal, the 2015 Chevrolet Malibu will be the first LTE-equipped vehicle, followed by more than 30 other Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles by the end of year, according to GM. The LTE-enabled GM vehicles will be able to act like a WiFi hotspot, offering connectivity to up to seven devices, as well as access to OnStar, which has evolved well beyond the emergency service that was most drivers' first experience with in-car connectivity.

In January, Google joined a new effort with several other automakers to make Android a key platform to add high-technology features into the vehicles of tomorrow. The Open Automotive Alliance (OAA) is a partnership between Google, Audi, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and graphics vendor Nvidia that aims to accelerate innovation inside vehicle cabins. 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 group.