Google is Working on a Version of Android Auto to be Built Directly into Cars

Google has a plan for Android Auto that would make it much more robust than a version of Android that simply projects smartphone apps onto a car's infotainment display, it's claimed. According to Reuters, which cited unnamed sources, Google is now developing a version of Android that would be built directly into partner cars. This version of Android is considered a "major step up" from Android Auto but will apparently still be considered a form of Android Auto, a platform designed by Google specifically for automobiles.

The current Android Auto version requires a smartphone to be plugged into a compatible car with a built-in screen to access streaming music, maps and other apps, but this is said to change once Android M gets released. The idea is that instead of using a smartphone and its connection for in-car services, the car itself would connect directly to the web using Google‘s software. That’s certainly a feasible scenario as we’re now starting to see cars with integrated LTE and Wi-Fi radios; next month’s Consumer Electronics Show is sure to highlight these. That connection would use Android Auto software to power the in-dash experience.

"It provides a much stronger foothold for Google to really be part of the vehicle rather than being an add-on," Thilo Koslowski, vice president and Automotive Practice Leader of industry research firm Gartner, told Reuters. He said he was unaware of Google's latest plans.

For Google, the shift would mean that its software would be powered inside the car, and presumably updated, for as long as a consumer owned that car. That could help lock users into Google's Android ecosystem. As Reuters points out, Google could also potentially access data collected by vehicles, including GPS data, where users drive, how much fuel they use and where they stop for gas. That could potentially improve Google services, especially Maps, but might also raise privacy concerns.

If successful, Android would become the standard system powering a car's entertainment and navigation features, solidifying Google's position in a new market where it is competing with arch-rival Apple Inc. Google could also potentially access the valuable trove of data collected by a vehicle.

Direct integration into cars ensures that drivers will use Google's services every time they turn on the ignition, without having to plug in the phone. It could allow Google to make more use of a car's camera, sensors, fuel gauge, and Internet connections that come with some newer car models. Analysts said Google's plan could face various technical and business challenges, including convincing automakers to integrate its services so tightly into their vehicles.

So, if your phone should die, your car will still be able to stream music, send texts, read emails, load maps, etc. Google could also get something in return by accessing your GPS location, where you travel, and where you go for gas, and then it can use that data for advertising purposes.

Another reason why Google could be interested in doing this is to somehow tie the data it gets on car components with its advertising business model and this could be a little tricky. Will car makers allow Google to stick in its tentacles and to get access to GPS location and detailed driver behavior, such as its whereabouts, where he travels and at what gas stations does he stop? I guess it all depends on how well Google builds its product and what are they trying to achieve with it.

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