Android could power your next Volvo or Audi

Android comes to the car.

Volvo Android Auto console
Credit: Google/Volvo

Your next car could be a giant Android device on wheels. 

Normally, when you're driving you aren't looking at your phone (and if you are -- stop!). But all that is about to change, since Android will be powering the infotainment systems in some cars. So how will it work?

In IT Blogwatch, we go for a ride.

So what is going on? Mark Gurman and Mark Bergen have some background:

Android already powers most smartphones on earth. Now Google is placing its mobile operating system right inside cars...ahead of its I/O mobile developers conference...Google is showing off its next step in automotive software: an Android version of touchscreen car consoles and infotainment systems. It will host...applications, like Google Maps and Spotify, but also control car features like seat positioning and temperature. The...system also embeds...Google Assistant -- the company's voice control service, for searching on the go, asking for directions, and making phone calls -- in cars for the first time.

But don't we already have Android Auto? How is this different? Ron Amadeo explains:

Today Google's only spot in the automotive market is Android Auto, which is not an operating system. Android Auto is a "casted" interface that runs on a smartphone and uses the in-dash car display as an external touchscreen monitor. This new initiative (called "Android Automotive")...is a full operating system that runs directly on the car's onboard computers.

And what cars will it be showing up in first? Daniel Cooper has that info:

Audi and Volvo are making a very public commitment to Google after pledging to build Android into their next generation of cars...Google was demoing a [prototype] Maserati that was running Android at last year's I/O. Its utility was already obvious, even back then, since Google's interface is worlds away from the terrible automotive displays we normally use.

Do we know anything specifically about how Audi and Volvo are implementing Android? Not entirely, but Ryne Hager is doing some informed speculation:

Both Volvo and Audi appear to have been given a lot of leeway with the UI in the screenshots on Google's blog, things look to be skinned pretty heavily. If Google is allowing car makers that degree of flexibility, I wouldn't expect...much...material design love when it lands in more cars. Even so, more tools and features from Android making their way into your car could come in handy...Not to mention the utility of having some of the same features you did before via Auto without needing your phone around.

Want to know more? Google worked a handy plug for I/O into its blog post about the announcement:

A preview of [Volvo's and Audi's] systems will be on display at Google I/O this week...If you are attending in person, see you there! If not, tune into the livestream of our session on May 17 at 2pm PT to learn more.

So how are people reacting to the news? Many are excited, but Cristian Constantin has some doubts:

Can't wait for my car to lag and force close some important apps when I just need to open a window.
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