Google has announced the title="Google">Open Automotive Alliance, a joint initiative involving Audi, GM, Honda, Hyundai and chip-maker NVIDIA, that aims to bring the Android experience to in-car navigation and infotainment systems. The announcement confirms earlier rumors that Google is expanding its mobile platform to the automotive industry, much in the way that Apple is attempting with its iOS In The Car initiative.
The idea behind the alliance, according to Google, is to create “a common platform will allow automakers to more easily bring cutting-edge technology to their drivers…and passengers in a safe and scalable way.” In other words, you’ll be able to use your Android devices and apps directly with your car. The joint effort has obvious upside for both automakers and Google. One of the challenges that car companies face when integrating consumer-facing technology is the 4-5 year development cycle for new car models. With any in-house, proprietary connectivity options, the danger is that they will appear hopelessly out of date by the time a car makes it into the showroom. This has led car manufacturers, at least in their higher-end models, to offer smartphone integration, where the customer brings their own phone (or tablet) and uses it to interact with the car’s system for things like hands-free dialing via Bluetooth, or remote functions like starting the engine or locking the doors.
By creating a common set of standards, the Open Automotive Alliance aims to foster a vibrant ecosystem of car-specific apps that are instinctively familiar to Android users. And by tying themselves to a mobile OS, carmakers will enjoy the possibility of frequent, feature-laden updates without having to develop those resources in-house. Google, for its part, hopes to gain a strategic foothold in the connected car space, which is quickly becoming the next battleground for consumers’ eyeballs. Chip-maker NVIDIA would also expand its portfolio by supplying the processors that make this all possible.
One of the more unique challenges for this endeavor – at least until driver-less cars become a mainstream reality – will be to deliver apps and service that consumers find helpful, without creating unsafe distractions for drivers. Both Google and the carmakers stress that car safety is a paramount concern and that they plan to work with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to ensure drivers can remain focused on the road.