A recent announcement from Google and Fiat-Chrysler has caught the eye of Android developers both here and in Europe. That announcement revealed that the two companies planned to demo a brand-new automotive entertainment OS at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show. Industry observers are saying that a successful demo could end up being a launching pad for Google to turn a modified Android into a complete automotive infotainment system.
ARS Technica’s Ron Amadeo pointed out in a January 3 piece that Google’s new Android Automotive OS is not the same thing as Android Auto. The latter is simply a display mechanism that provides a larger presentation of what’s already on a user’s Android phone. Android Automotive is an actual OS that works independently from any external mobile device.
At the heart of Android Automotive is what Google calls the ‘Open Automotive Alliance’, a consortium of auto manufacturers and technology companies committed to developing Android for cars. The alliance is essentially the automotive version of Google’s Open Handset Alliance. It is an alliance that has already recruited dozens of companies including big-name car makers like Fiat-Chrysler, Acura, Audi, Ford, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz. The list of technology partners that have also joined the alliance is equally impressive.Small vintage italian car Fiat Abarth. Yellow color
A New Frontier for Developers
What must be understood is that Android Automotive could be one of the most significant game-changers seen in the Android arena since Google first announced the development of the mobile OS years ago. Developing Android to become a full-fledged automotive OS could eventually become the next great frontier for mobile web application development.
Mobile app developers with any history in the sector know that when Apple introduced the first modern smartphone, the actual number of mobile apps available was a fraction of what it is today. How many app developers have gone on to make a very good living based on the proliferation of a mobile device very few people actually needed but everyone wanted? Google, being the savvy online marketing company that it is, quickly understood that Apple didn’t have to be the only player in the mobile game. They gave birth to Android, and the competition was on.
It looks like the same thing is about to unfold in the automotive market. Sure, various car makers have attempted to create their own proprietary automotive Os’s in partnership with willing software partners. But none of those systems has succeeded on a large-scale. Where they have failed, Google is likely to succeed if, for no other reason, than the fact that their Android OS already dominates the mobile market.
The Android OS as a full-fledged operating system for cars opens the door wide for mobile web application development specifically geared to drivers. It’s simply a matter of figuring out what would make the driving experience better and then developing apps to do just that.
A Framework to Build On
Before anyone gets excited about this prospect of Google controlling how car owners use their infotainment systems, it should be made clear that car makers will do exactly what handset makers have done. They will start with Android as a base, then modify the OS to meet their own needs and branding. In other words, Android will be a framework car makers can build on.
From the Android developer’s standpoint, this is the best way to go. Allowing car makers to build off Android for their own branded systems creates more opportunities for widespread app development. In light of that, those developers will be keeping an eye on Android Automotive and the opportunities they hope it generates.