Google Drives Android into Automotive Industry

by Matt Klassen on January 8, 2014

On Monday Google announced a landmark partnership with chipmaker Nvidia and several automakers in a coalition dubbed the Open Automotive Alliance, a project designed to drive Android into the automotive industry. General Motors, Audi, and Hyundai represent the automotive side of this partnership, a coalition that will attempt to create an industry standard in-vehicle operating system that auto manufacturers will then use to design Android-enabled vehicles, the first of which, reports say, will hit the market later this year.

The platform will “bring Google Places, Maps, Voice, Earth and developer support to cars,” Roger Lanctot, an associate research director at Strategy Analytics, told the E-Commerce Times — “just about anything users have on their phones, except for games.” Further, the automobile will provide developers with a unique opportunity to design vehicle specific Android applications, things we likely haven’t even dreamt of yet.

But in an age of distracting driving, where thousands are killed annually due to undue care and attention, will Android-powered cars mark another step in human technological progress, or serve only as our death warrant?

Let’s just say first and foremost that regardless of safety concerns, of consumer need, or anything that one might consider relevant to the discussion of mobile technology coming to the automotive industry, such a move was absolutely inevitable. The fact of the matter is that most of our vehicles run some sort of basic operating system already, it was really just a matter of time before a company pushed to establish some sort of industry standard, and given the popularity of Android, it does seem like the default choice.

“This could be the ideal win-win that automotive OEMs want — a platform that’s upgradable, that will run for five to six years, and at the same time will let them introduce new features gradually as OTA updates so customers feel they’re getting the latest and greatest features and are not stuck with an obsolete platform,” said Praveen Chandrasekar, a research manager at Frost & Sullivan.

But there are several extant concerns surrounding Android and the notion of mobile platforms operating in our vehicles that should give us pause before thinking this is the greatest thing since sliced bread. The primary concern, as mentioned, is distracted driving, do we really need just one more thing—a thing that offers multiple points of distraction—to be taking our eyes off the road? Last year in America over 3000 people were killed and almost a half million injured due to distracted driving, giving drivers more stuff in their vehicles is not going to help.

That said, we can take solace in the fact that at least Google is aware of such concerns, as not only is Google partnering with the automotive industry with this newly formed coalition to see what role Android would have in a vehicle, but the search engine giant is also working with US government agencies like the Highway Traffic Safety Administration to determine what kind of content it can offer and what sorts of distraction elements need to be mitigated and eliminated.

The other looming issue with Android revolves around security, as given the headache users feel when their phones are hacked, just imagine the destruction that would be wrought should hackers assume control of your car. That said, the standardization of Android may actually work in Google’s favour here, as Android’s vulnerabilities to malware are almost exclusively due to its widespread fragmentation.

In the end, Android is coming to your vehicle in the very near future, of that there is no question. It just remains to be seen if Google can assuage the very real security and distraction concerns surrounding its little green droid, or if it really cares to.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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