Android is coming to your car — and you won’t even need to bring your phone along for the ride.
A year after Google teased the experience, Android-powered car infotainment systems are much closer to reality. Full Android integration is a step beyond Android Auto, where users can project car-specific versions of apps (like Maps) to a dashboard running some other software; now Android powers the entire system.
The first two carmakers to show off Android-powered cars are Audi and Volvo, and at least one of concept vehicle — Audi’s flashy R8 sport — will be on display at this week’s Google I/O developers conference.
The deeper Android integration means more Android’s features — such as Google’s voice-activated Assistant — will run natively on dashboards. Beyond the usual Android Auto fare of Spotify and Google Maps, you could also use voice to control things like your sunroof or air conditioning.
Volvo’s Android integration will arrive in new models “within two years,” according to a company release about the partnership. Henrik Green, Volvo’s Senior Vice President of Research & Development, said the system will offer “hundreds of popular apps,” and the automaker will also work with Google to add location-based Google Local Search to its cars.
The details of the Audi partnership are less specific, with the automaker touting the Android platform’s potential for future development of new apps and connected auto services.
The deals with Audi and Volvo put Android another step ahead of competitor Apple in the connected car space. Although Apple has CarPlay, which competes directly with Android Auto, there are no stated plans for car infotainment systems that run iOS. (That could change at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June.)
Of course, there are other smart systems out there running apps, too — Ford Sync (which runs BlackBerry-owned QNX software) offers third-party apps like Siri and even the Android Auto app through AppLink. Microsoft is also looking to make big moves with its Azure-powered Connected Vehicle Platform. However, Google’s Android-powered systems could be a game-changer as it leverages the strength of the sizable Android development community.