Google has just revealed a little more information regarding its new platform for the automotive industry, Android Auto. As far back as June of this year, we knew Google was up to something, extending the reach of its Android platform in the shape of a dedicated UI that makes Android much more suited to use inside a car. Today we see a little of Google’s vision with documentation and specific guidance for app development within the new platform.
To say that Google is a one of the most forward thinking companies of today, is a massive understatement. Along with Apple they have managed to revolutionize a great deal of what is going in almost all of our lives. It used to be search, then came email, storage space and the expansion of the cloud. This was then transformed by the development of Android OS and the Open Handset Alliance which, in quite a short amount of space revolutionized the mobile phone space. Next came Google TV, an ambitious attempt to leverage the Internet to revolutionize how we get TV content, and then more recently we have Android Wear, which attempts to kickstart the digital wearables space with a standardized platform to which the majority of major manufacturers immediately signed up.
Android Auto is Google’s attempt to assert its authority and control over the development of automotive computer technology. We have seen decades of talk about Car PCs over the years, and certainly there are products out there that do a great of job offering in-car multimedia, navigation and voice controlled functions. The problem until now was that they were largely inconsistent, over complicated and (if my experience is anything to go by) usually the first thing to break down after a few years of use.
The ubiquity of fully functioning and networked smartphones has changed this picture dramatically. We now carry in our pockets devices that can stream video, offer sophisticated music playback software, and of course ever improving navigation and voice control – in fact, all the ingredients needed to finally create a coherent, compelling automotive experience with Google’s Android at the center.
Check out this short video from Google which explains the Google Android Auto vision:
Today Google essentially just showed us a bit of leg. Not the whole leg, but enough to reassure us geeks that Google is on schedule and pushing things along nicely. The main mass of information relates to getting the developer community that already exists around Automotive on-board with several crucial principles that relate to overall functionality, design, architecture and the UI itself. These principles which will form the backbone of Android Auto can be found here on developer.android.com, and can be seen as way of giving developers a the first sense of exactly how Android Auto will work.
Google Android Auto will only become a reality with the right partners and just as we have seen with Android Wear, the partners are arriving in droves. Take one look at the Android Auto web page, where you will find probably the majority of major car manufacturers around today; Ford, Fiat, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Chevrolet, Audi, Bentley, Infiniti, Volkswagen, Renault and several others.
The principle work will involve finding the best way to bring Android and its cloud connectivity to the dashboard in a smarter way than we have seen in the past. Services like Google Maps, Google Play, Google Voice and other entertainment and media apps will be integrated in a specially designed UI that is designed for drivers to use. Today is the first step along the road achieving all of that and actually involves a lot of somewhat restrictive standards relating to the UI design. Arguably this is a necessary evil when it involves producing software that won’t endanger lives when it comes to driver interaction:
The Android Auto app uses a car-specific UI model to display content and user interaction opportunities. Android Auto provides you with a standard UI designed to minimize driver distraction. You do not have to test a custom UI for for driver distraction, which is a lengthy and expensive process involving multiple legislations across the globe and different standards for each vehicle OEM. The UI defines interfaces for browsing, searching, and listening to content from media apps. You can customize the UI colors, action icons, background images, and more.
This is already receiving a negative reaction from certain segments of the development community, and understandably so. I am sure many automotive app developers had hoped to do more than simply choose the color scheme. Either way, Google is pushing ahead with the next revolution, and it involves our cars.