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Will 2014 Be the Year of Android-Enabled Cars?

by Sergio De Simone on Jan 20, 2014 |

Google has officially entered the in-car computer arena by announcing the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA) together with Nvidia and several automobile manufacturers, including Audi, GM, Honda, and Hyundai. The Alliance's mission, according to its official announcement, is bringing the Android platform to cars by the end of 2014.

The group has announced a twofold strategy towards its ultimate goal: on the one hand “to enable better integration between cars and Android devices” and on the other “developing new Android platform features that will enable the car itself to become a connected Android device”.

No more details about what this could mean are offered in the announcement, but The Verge interprets this as hinting at “standard frameworks for controlling apps from a dashboard or with voice control” and “some form of screen (and feature) mirroring from the phone to the car's display”.

Audi, one of the members of OAA, demonstrated at CES 2014 an Android tablet that connects to the car through Wi-Fi and allows passengers to interact with in-car entertainment or navigation systems through the tablet, i.e., without ever touching the cockpit and potentially freeing the driver from doing it on its own while driving. According to CNET this tablet “provides a clue as to how Audi's participation in the Open Auto Alliance will help it integrate Android devices”. Audi provided no details as to the tablet availability or cost.

One of the objectives that the Alliance sets for itself is enabling “safe” and “seamless” access to mobile services while on the road and “building an experience that helps drivers get what they're looking for without disrupting their focus on the road.”

OAA recalls the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) which helped Google establish Android leadership in the mobile phones market. Indeed, two of the key concepts presented on OAA website, openness and customization, can also be largely found in the original 2007 OHA announcement.

Furthermore, as it was true for OHA, whose members have grown from 34 founding members to 84 at the time of this writing, also the newly established Open Automotive Alliance is open for any technology or automotive players to join the effort.

To developers, claim the Alliance, benefits would be twofold: OAA aims at establishing a single platform across a variety of automakers, thus reducing the development effort required by addressing multiple platforms; besides this, another benefit touted by OAA is the familiarity that many developers already have with the Android platform.

Google is not the only mobile OS maker that is aiming at entering the automotive market. Indeed, Apple announced its own partnerships with in 2012 focusing on Eyes Free Siri. Furthermore, six months ago, at WWDC 2013, Apple unveiled a new step in its automotive strategy announcing iOS in the car.

Another technology giant present in the automotive market is Microsoft, whose Windows platform powers Ford SYNC Applink in-car entertainment system.

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