Google announced an Open Automotive Alliance with Audi, GM, Honda, Hyundai, and Nvidia to ease integration with Android and standardize Android IVI systems.
The Open Automotive Alliance (OAA) is “dedicated to a common platform that will drive innovation, and make technology in the car safer and more intuitive for everyone,” says the group. The OAA is further committed to “bringing the Android platform to cars starting in 2014.” In its FAQ, the OAA suggests that this is not a full-blown Android in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system, but rather a standardized integration stack between automotive systems and mobile Android devices.
“We’re working with our partners to enable better integration between cars and Android devices in order to create a safer, car optimized experience,” says the FAQ. It goes on to note, “You can expect to see the first cars with Android integration by the end of this year.” A separate Google blog announcement adds, “Wouldn’t it be great if you could bring your favorite apps and music with you, and use them safely with your car’s built-in controls and in-dash display?”
In other words, the initial 2014 goal appears to be some sort of standardized stack to streamline syncing and content exchange between Android mobile devices and automotive IVI systems. Like the Car Connectivity Consortium’s similar MirrorLink consortium, the integration would appear to support a variety of automotive platforms, not just Android.
“We see huge opportunities for the Android platform paired with OnStar 4G LTE connectivity in future Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles,” stated Mary Chan, President of General Motors’ Global Connected Consumer unit.
Apple has a somewhat similar interconnectivity initiative it calls iOS in the Car (iOSitC), which includes all the automakers in the OAA, among many others. The OAA is similarly open to new memberships.
Yet, the OAA has larger ambitions for 2015 and beyond. The FAQ goes on to state: “We’re also developing new Android platform features that will enable the car itself to become a connected Android device.”
So after releasing the interoperability spec, it would seem that Google and its band of automakers will push forward with a standardized Android IVI spec. Although details are vague, Google appears to have in mind something like the GENIVI Alliance, which offers standard reference platforms for Linux-based IVI systems, in this case, presumably built around an Nvidia Tegra system-on-chip. The words “open source” are not used, but the OAA says it will support “openness, customization and scale,” as well as an “open development model and common platform.”
The OAA makes no mention of interoperability with CCC’s MirrorLink, GENIVI, or other automotive alliances. However, three of the OAA’s four automotive manufacturer members — General Motors, Honda, and Hyundai — are members of both the CCC and the GENIVI Alliance, and ARM chipmaker Nvidia is a GENIVI member.
GM has already fielded a number of luxury cars using Linux-based IVI systems, including the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year, the Cadillac CTS. It plans to extend Linux to a variety of Buick, GMC, Chevrolet, and Opel models starting this year. GM and Audi are among nine carmakers that will show off technology at this week’s CES show in Las Vegas, which also feature exhibits from some 125 automotive tech companies. Automotive exhibits will cover more than 140,000 net square feet of exhibit space, up 25 percent from last year.
Google is not a member of any of the major automotive technology consortia, but it has grand ambitions in the automotive realm. The company has yet to announce any Android integration plans for its Linux-based Self-driving Car prototype.
Android and IVI to date
Android has already made it into a few cars, although it trails other Linux platforms, not to mention automotive IVI leaders QNX (BlackBerry) and Windows Embedded Automotive (Microsoft). One of the first Android systems was the Asteroid after-market IVI system. The platform became a standard automotive feature this September when Renault announced it was shipping its Android-based R-Link system in 15 Renault car models. Last summer, Malaysian car company Proton launched a Suprima S hatchback with an Android-based IVI system.
OEM subsystems and middleware are also appearing with Android. In September, Clarion Malaysia announced an AX1 Android IVI system for OEMs. In October, AllGo Embedded Systems unveiled a new version of its Fast Boot Android IVI stack, said to boot Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) to full IVI system availability within four seconds.