Google held its latest I/O press conference yesterday at its headquarters in Mountain View, California, where the tech giant announced a wave of future plans including new products for the house and car.
Right now Google’s popular Android Auto smartphone integration system is being updated with improved voice activation through the Apple Siri-like Hotword feature. Android Auto is also getting the Waze navigation app integrated.
Waze uses crowdsourcing to provide navigation and real-time traffic information and may soon prove more popular than many in-built navigation systems. On a related note, Waze is also being enhanced with a new ride-sharing extension called Waze Rider that could soon prove a threat to existing ride-sharing services such as Lyft and Uber.
But this is only the start of Google’s overarching plan to eventually provide a complete infotainment system for the car based on its Android operating system.
At its press conference, Google rolled out a Maserati Ghibli running an infotainment system based on a next-generation Android OS currently referred to as Android N. The Ghibli featured a 15.0-inch screen in its dash that served as the main interface.
Ford Motor Company [NYSE:F] teamed up with Microsoft as early as 2007 to develop its Sync infotainment system and more recently Aston Martin announced that it was working with Chinese firm LeEco on developing an infotainment system, so Google's announcement of an infotainment system is nothing new. But unlike those systems Android is already in use in many phones and tablets and it looks like Google is gearing up to make the OS the default for all connected devices, including cars.
Google says the benefit to automakers in using its OS is that they will no longer be tasked with having to develop their own systems for features such as climate control, connectivity, navigation and radio, helping to reduce complexity and costs. The tech giant also points out that a common OS offers advantages for communication between cars on the road, which will be crucial for the launch of fully autonomous cars, which Google is also working on.
However, automakers have been wary of ceding control of a key component such as the infotainment system to an outside firm, especially when it comes to privacy of data collected. For example, we’ve already seen Toyota reject Android Auto and the similar Apple CarPlay smartphone integration system. It will be interesting to watch this battle play out.