android auto first look (18 of 18)

Android Auto was formally announced earlier this year as Google’s big push into our automobiles. The platform doesn’t actually bring Android to our cars directly, but instead provides a software layer of sorts that works with compatible touchscreen infotainments by way of our existing smartphones. Android Auto is expected to surface in a number of upcoming vehicles in 2015, but it seems that this is only the beginning of Google’s automotive ambitions.

According to report from Reuters, the next version of Android, dubbed M, won’t just play nice with vehicle infotainment systems — it’ll serve as the brains of the operation. Reportedly Android M will arrive in “the next year or so”, and a special version of the OS will be designed specifically for installation into vehicles.

While it’s likely the interface and features will be mostly the same as Android Auto, the big difference is that we won’t need our smartphones to access these features.

How will this car-optimized version of Android M differ from Android Auto in its current incarnation? While it’s likely the interface and features will be mostly the same (messaging, maps, music, etc), the big difference is that we won’t need our smartphones to access these features. It’s also likely that the self-contained Android Auto infotainment systems will have build in LTE cellular connections in order to fully take advantage of all that Android can bring to the table.

Another big difference is that Android Auto currently can work beside Apple CarPlay, Ford Sync, BMW iDrive and other systems, whereas a self-contained Android-in-car experience would likely aim to replace all of these solutions. It remains unseen if Google would be able to persuade car manufacturers to adopt such a system and drop support for alternatives.

Bottom-line, Google clearly sees the automobile as an area of growth for Android and aims to expand way beyond Android Auto’s current vision. What do you think, like the idea of your car actually running Android, or prefer the idea of our cars merely integrating with our existing mobile devices?

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