I, For One, Welcome Our Open-Source Infotainment Overlords

Sections: Aftermarket, CES, CES 2014, Infotainment, Installations, Telematics

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Android KitKat Andy

(Image courtesy Google/Android)

Audi, Honda, GM, and Hyundai are joining forces with Google and NVIDIA to form the Open Automotive Alliance, the companies announced at CES this week. Say hello to Android. He’ll be making his home in your dash soon.

A press release from Audi said the OAA is “committed to bringing the Android platform to cars starting in 2014. More information is available at the official OAA website that launched this week.

“The OAA is dedicated to a common platform that will drive innovation, and make technology in the car safer and more intuitive for everyone,” the release said.

The OAA’s approach will embrace openness, customization, and scale, the release said. Open-source development and a common platform shared among the OAA’s members will make allow the automakers to more easily bring cutting-edge technology to drivers while allowing opportunities for developers to work in a new environment — your car — in a safe, scalable way, Audi said.

Audi AG Head of Electrics/Electronics Development Ricky Hudi said, “The worlds of consumer and automotive technologies have never been more closely aligned, and this alliance will only pave the way for faster innovation. Working toward a common ecosystems benefits driver safety above all.”

As a Linux MintPPC and Android user, all I can say is YES! Open-source development on an Android platform will make the future of infotainment, telematics, and navigation far more innovative, customizable to drivers’ tastes, and satisfying to use. If I don’t like the way an app works on my cheap Android phone or my Android-powered netbook, I simply uninstall it and find another app that better suits my wants and needs.

The Audi release quoted General Motors’ Global Connected Consumer President Mary Chan, who said, “Partnering with Google and the OAA on an ecosystem that spans across vehicles and handheld mobile devices furthers our mission to bring vehicles into our owners digital lives and their digital lives into their vehicles. We see huge opportunities for the Android platform paired with OnStar 4G LTE connectivity in future Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles.”

Hyundai Motor Group R&D Vice Chairman Woong-Chul Yang said, “We are excited to announce that our customers using Android will soon be able to enjoy the continuous user experience in their Hyundai and Kia vehicles. By introducing the latest IT technologies safely and securely throughout our full range of vehicles, we continually strive to provide the highest levels of convenience and to enhance the in-vehicle experience.”

NVIDIA President and Chief Executive Officer Jen-Hsun Huang said, “The car is the ultimate mobile computer. With onboard supercomputing chips, futuristic cars of our dreams will no longer be science fiction. The OAA will enable the car industry to bring these amazing cars to market faster.”

Google Senior Vice President of Android, Chrome, and Apps Sundar Pichai said, “Millions of people are already familiar with Android and use it everyday. The expansion of the Android platform into automotive will allow our industry partners to more easily integrate mobile technology into cars and offer drivers a familiar, seamless experience so they can focus on the road.”

Let’s just think about the awesomeness this could spawn for a minute: Imagine having the Fuelly app integrated into a telematics tab on your Android-powered infotainment screen. It would sure beat punching information into my phone’s 3.5-inch screen! Or what about having your choice of navigation apps, rather than being stuck with the one that came with your car or an aftermarket stick-on Garmin? Don’t like the stock EQ of your car speakers? Head to the Google Play Store and download the Equalizer app. If you’re often stuck in your parked car for long periods of time, you might even download Candy Crush Saga to pass the time.

The time for walled gardens in our technology has passed. That’s as true for our computers, tablets, and laptops as it is for our automobile infotainment systems. Going open-source might not only drive better software to the dashboard screen. Consider for a moment how it could drive aftermarket head units to become better as well by embracing Android. We’ve already seen a ton of Android tablets installed in dashboards. If the OAA succeeds in generating widespread Android acceptance inside our cars, I think it’ll only be a matter of time before aftermarket manufacturers stop focusing as much on knob-and-button hardware and more on docking station hardware. It’d be the ultimate evolution of all those detachable-face head units you’ve had in your cars over the years — only instead of detaching the face when you parked your car in that downtown parking structure, you’d detach your smartphone from a dock that featured a built-in USB and SD card slot to supplement the storage space on the phone. The ultimate goal of OAA — and most assuredly of Google — would be realized: Users would take the Android UI with them everywhere, not just because they use the same OS on their smartphone and in the car, but because their smartphone would become their head unit’s control interface.

That’s a future I can get behind — and it’s why I, for one, welcome our open-source infotainment overlords.

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