Volvo and Audi upload Google's Android Nougat to their cars
Software will power everything from Infotainment to windows
Google won’t just be on your phone in the future, but powering your car’s systems too. Android is sued in millions of smartphones around the world, and the introduction of AndroidAuto allowed users to use some of their phone’s functionality into the car.
But now Google wants to make the link between Android and the car stronger with the development of its embedded operating system Android Nougat.
The system was first announced at the technology company’s annual I/O conference last year powering a concept Maserati. But at this year’s event both Audi and Volvo told the world they were going to use the software architecture in their respective vehicles.
That’s a step further down the integration road between automotive and consumer software. While AndroidAuto allowed you to bring functions into the car’s cockpit it was only ever a mirroring system, so had limited functionality. With Nougat things change.
The software can be sued to run not only areas such as the radio, but also the heating and ventilation system, instrument cluster and car sensors.
Google’s Patrick Brady, vice-president of engineering for the Android Team said:
“Last year at I/O we announced that we were building automotive features right into the Android platform to make it a turnkey solution for cars, every bit as much an automotive platform as it is a mobile platform today.”
“We’re doing this because we believe that open platforms are powerful drivers of eco-systems they reduce the cost of development and speed time to market, in a sense they accelerate innovation.”
What that means is that both Audi and Volvo will be able to not only more closely embed Android into the car so customers can benefit from services such as Google Maps, Spotify and Google Assistant, but allow developers to bring new apps and functionality specifically designed for the automotive space. That means a software development kit (SDK) that is open to everyone, but focused on creating car-friendly systems.
“It’s very important for us to produce a seamless solution where the user experience is at the heart. The design of a UX system is important but at the heart of it is the operating system, and here with Google we strongly believe that we have developed the next generation based on the Android platform. So the developers are now the people and the brain power that will bring this experience to life in future cars,” said Volvo’s Henrik Green, vice-president of research and development.
Volvo works with Intel on the hardware side of its infotainment and connectivity development, and that could be key to reassuring people about safety, more specifically hacking.
For example Intel’s technology uses systems such as the root of trust through hardware back-key stores, requiring a driver to authenticate when they start the car. Software in the car must pass with a specific key to proceed to the next step in the boot flow.
Intel has been working closely with Google during the development of Android Nougat, conducting a real-world testing programme, allowing the silicon firm to work with Google on feature development, debugging, and ensuring a smoother Android experience on Intel’s platforms. And with access to Google’s pre-release code, Intel can also make sure that further updates of the software can be implemented faster.
While Volvo is relatively new to Google, Audi has a much longer history of working with the company. It introduced Google Earth and Google Maps to its vehicles a number of years ago. Android Nougat appears to be the next step in that relationship, and the firm’s Q8 will be the first vehicle to benefit.
Audi’s head of connected cars and infotainment Alfons Pfaller said: “[Based on the Q8 Sport Concept] cockpit we are able to bring in amazing design and a straightforward user experience and we use a seamless integration of embedded Android. And I think that is a big step.
“We are bringing high-end computing inside the car, the next step is from our friends from mobile communications and connecting all cars with high-speed LTE and very soon also with 5G,” he said.
But the biggest advantage for Audi, and others, again is with embedded Android they can provide an open platform for Automotive, enabling car firms to invite developers to participate in automotive software development. That could sound like a lot of potential problems and challenges, but it’s the way the industry is moving, so it’ll be interesting to see who adopts Android Nougat next, and perhaps more importantly what Apple’s next move will be.