Industry insiders predicted that 2014 would be a big year for the advancement of software in cars, and those forecasts are already proving to be true. In a Jan. 6 blog post, Google announced a new partnership with automakers Audi, GM, Honda and Hyundai, as well as with hardware manufacturer Nvidia, called the Open Automotive Alliance. With a stated goal of bringing Android to vehicles in a more integrated way, the partnership looks to be a significant step forward for in-car software interfaces.
“Together with our OAA partners, we’re working to enable new forms of integration with Android devices, and adapting Android for the car to make driving safer, easier and more enjoyable for everyone,” Android engineering director Patrick Brady wrote in a blog post. “Putting Android in the car will bring drivers apps and services they already know and love, while enabling automakers to more easily deliver cutting-edge technology to their customers. And it will create new opportunities for developers to extend the variety and depth of the Android app ecosystem in new, exciting and safe ways.”
Focused around principles of openness and innovation, the OAA will place an emphasis on aligning consumer and automotive technologies. Expanding the Android platform to include connected cars will allow seamless integration with existing devices and simplify the transition for developers already familiar with the Android ecosystem.
“The car is the ultimate mobile computer,” Nvidia CEO and president Jen-Hsun Huang said. “With onboard supercomputing chips, futuristic cars of our dreams will no longer be science fiction. The OAA will enable the car industry to bring these amazing cars to market faster.”
Focus on software integration
The announcement comes at a time in which consumers and manufacturers alike are focusing on infotainment features as key differentiators in the automotive market. A recent study from Accenture found that customers are twice as likely to base their car purchasing decisions on in-vehicle technology as on performance. Apple CEO Tim Cook has called iOS in the car “a key focus” for the company. Announced at the most recent Worldwide Developer Conference, it has yet to officially launch, but some features, such as Siri Eyes Free, are beginning to appear in new car models, IDG News Service noted.
Last spring, Kia became the first automotive manufacturer to incorporate Android into its cars as part of its infotainment system. In the 2014 Sorrento, for instance, drivers can plug a phone into the car to access 11 different driving-related applications, TechHive noted.
While specifics about what the OAA initiative will actually create in terms of in-car technology remain vague, the shift to expand Android to the automotive world promises to be a major innovation as cars become more software-driven. For developers, the initiative will allow them to use the same development tools in a new context, albeit with new pressures such as MISRA compliance. To meet the stringent development needs of the automotive environment, developers will also benefit from being able to use tools like source code analysis software to scan their Android programs for errors. Yet while new venues for Android create new development challenges, there is also substantial room and incentive for innovation, making this announcement one for those in the automotive sector to watch.
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