First came the smartphones. Then came the tablets. But soon, Google will be taking its Android operating system and putting it in a much bigger package. The Wall Street Journal reports that Google plans to partner with Audi to develop Android-based software for new cars.
Ron Montoya, the consumer advice editor for Edmunds.com, said that the two companies had worked together before. “They already laid the foundation when they started to put Google Maps in the car,” he said.
Karl Brauer, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, adds that it’s not just Audi’s and Google’s partnership evolving, but the car itself. “Even if you drive a lot, you still probably spend more time with your devices than with your car,” he said. “The closer that they can make a car interface look like a phone interface, the more quickly you’ll learn to use it and the more at ease you’ll be.”
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The partnership is expected to be announced at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show, held from Jan. 7-10, 2014. Both Google and Audi declined to comment about the report. However, Audi’s head of product strategy, Filip Brabec, told the Wall Street Journal that new vehicles will inevitably need an operating system to meet a customers’ demand for apps.
Apple announced a similar development earlier this year with iOS in the Car, at their WWDC keynote in June. “It makes a number of the functions of the iPhone appear on the car’s screen,” said Montoya. “But it’s still based on the phone, not on the vehicle.”
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For Brauer, the Audi deal is a sign of things to come. “The automobile industry usually moves at a snail’s pace compared to the consumer electronics,” he said. “I get the sense Apple, Google, and Microsoft as well, that all three of these companies are scrambling [for partnerships].” He added that if any one company is able to nab both GM and Toyota, its competitors will find it difficult to overcome.
For now, Brauer says that both Apple and Google are taking care not to display so much information at once that a driver ends up getting distracted. “It’s a big balancing act, figuring out how much info do you feed the driver so that it’s useful but not distracting,” he said. But he adds that could all change when autonomous vehicles finally hit the road.
“When you have a car that can handle all the driving, what are you going to do behind the wheel?” said Brauer. “That balancing act will go away, and then you’ll want as fast a connection and as much information in your car as you would your home or smartphone.”