FIRST GOOGLE built an autonomous car that can drive better than you. Now it has developed software that knows where it is going before you do.
The technology giant has launched its Android Auto in-car system, which will allow drivers to plug their Android smartphone into their car and access their apps on the vehicle’s touchscreen, using voice recognition, on-screen swipes or steering wheel buttons to control them.
Users will be able to have text messages read out to them, dictate internet searches and view turn-by-turn directions with Google Maps acting as a sat nav.
The new system was shown at a presentation in San Francisco where Patrick Brady, Android director of engineering, said that Android Auto would be “contextually aware”, so that it would give you information as and when it was needed. Little further detail was given but it could mean that your fastest route home, avoiding traffic, is automatically calculated at 5.30pm, or some mood-lifting music is cued up after a day of meetings .
Android Auto is Google’s answer to Apple’s rival CarPlay system, which was shown earlier this year and works in a very similar way. Both use use drivers’ smartphones to power a vehicle’s in-car entertainment system, allowing compatible music, radio, messaging and social media apps to be used in cars.
As updates and new types of apps are developed, users simply need to update their phone to have access to the latest versions in their car.
Apple has confirmed that 20 car manufacturers will fit CarPlay software to forthcoming cars. Android Auto has partnerships with 28 firms.
One of the first cars to be available with both systems will be Volvo’s new XC90, which will be revealed later this summer. Volvo has not yet taken a final decision on how they will be offered to customers but buyers are likely to have to decide whether they want Apple or Android compatibility when they order their car, effectively committing drivers to the same type of smartphone for several years.
Audi, which has announced that it, too, is bringing the software platforms into its cars from early 2015, might just have neatly side-stepped that problem by saying that customers will be able to choose at any time which of them they wish to use.