Android N joins auto OS battle

May 24, 2016 // By Junko Yoshida
We’re all aware that operating system vendors have been itching to get into the automotive market. Google, for example, has been pushing Android Auto, and Apple has CarPlay. At its Google I/O Conference, Google upped the ante, revealing that the upcoming Android N will come with an auto-centric variant equipped with hooks that sink much deeper into cars.

This auto-centric variant of Android N OS—natively running in a car—would allow carmakers to develop infotainment systems that can access heating and air conditioning, AM/FM radio, connectivity and other core functions besides the usual media, navigation and messaging apps.

Google showed off Android N on a reference In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) concept system inside a Maserati Ghibli. The system featured a vertical 15-inch screen—much like the one you find in Tesla today—and high-definition digital instrument cluster powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 chip.


Android N OS running on screens (of head unit and instrument cluster)
inside Maserati Ghibli (Source: Google)

What changed?
Up until now, Google has not offered “auto-specific middleware to control infotainment systems,” Egil Juliussen, senior director & principal analyst IHS Automotive, told EE Times. The lack of a middleware standard has sent car OEMs and Tier Ones scrambling for proprietary middleware or some version of Linux OS for in-vehicle infotainment systems.

Undoubtedly, Android N will give Google a much deeper inroad into the automotive market. It allows Google to offer automakers a range of apps and services from which to choose.

More important, when Google does this middleware, “it becomes a standard that will be updated by Google,” said Juliussen. “It saves the OEMs from doing so.”