Google Introduces Android Auto – A Platform That Makes Cars Smart

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The company gets ready to fight Apple on a brand new battlefield

Google has revealed more details about the Android Auto project – its bid to get the Linux-based mobile OS inside our cars.

Android Auto enables users to access certain functions of their smartphone through the car dashboard – things like music, navigation and messaging. It is expected to compete with Apple’s CarPlay, a similar platform for iPhone owners.

However, CarPlay relies on Apple Maps, which has been criticised for inaccuracies in the past – something that could prove decisive in a system made for vehicles.

Driven by Android

Android Auto was originally announced in February, but very few details were made public at the time. We knew that the system was somehow facilitated by Nvidia’s Tegra K1 processor. We also knew that it would be adopted through the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA), which included Audi, Honda, Hyundai and General Motors.

slide-1Finally, we had the promise that the platform would appear on the roads later this year.

On the first day of Google I/O, the company explained that Android Auto will be powered by the car owner’s smartphone. It will be compatible with the dashboard touchscreen and steering-wheel buttons, however the method of control preferred by Google is voice commands.

Android Auto relies on Google’s formidable natural language processing know-how, which is already used in Android smartphones and projects like Google Glass. It will be able to read out messages, and user will be able to dictate a reply.

In a product demo at Google I/O, Android product manager Andy Brenner was able to find out how late a museum would stay open, and get the system to navigate there, all without taking his hands off the wheel.

Another huge draw here is Google Maps, which will offer live traffic information and voice-powered search. There’s also support for Google Play Music and contextually-aware ‘cards’ of Google Now.

Meanwhile, OAA now brings together a total of 40 car manufacturers including Ford, Mitsubishi, Fiat, Nissan, Mazda, Renault, Volkswagen, Volvo and Bentley.

Google said that Android Auto is different enough from the core Android OS to require a separate Software Development Kit, which will be released in the nearest future.

At the same event, Google announced the first smartwatches running Android Wear – a specialised version of Android for wearable devices. It also revealed Android One – a new initiative that aims to create high quality, affordable smartphones for developing countries.

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