Forget Google's robot cars, now it's on to ANDROID cars

Next OS to come built into auto dashboards, sources claim

Google is planning a big push into in-car infotainment systems with an upcoming version of Android, sources claim.

"Android M" – the version to come after the current Android 5.0 "Lollipop" – will be available in a formulation designed specifically to run cars' built-in screens, Reuters reports, citing anonymous insiders with knowledge of the plan.

Google made its first advances toward the automotive world at its I/O developer conference earlier this year, when it unveiled its Android Auto software. The first Android Auto–compatible cars are expected to arrive early next year.

But much like Apple's CarPlay, Android Auto is an add-on system that lets you use your phone to control your car's screens and stereo. No phone, no Android in your car.

The forthcoming system, industry blabbermouths claim, is designed to be built into vehicles and to power their infotainment systems directly. The Android OS would be available every time the driver turns on the ignition.

Such an embedded version of Android could potentially have access to a variety of in-car systems, such as dashboard gauges, sensors, cameras, and environmental controls, making for a much richer experience for the driver.

It could also provide Google with a brand-new treasure trove of data to feed to its ravenous search and analytics engines.

But convincing automakers to build Android into their cars could be a tough sell. Google is hardly the only company looking to enter the market for in-car infotainment systems, which is expected to balloon in the next few years.

In addition to Apple, Samsung is looking to get in on the bandwagon with its Linux-derived Tizen OS. And a consortium overseen by the Linux Foundation is working on standards for "Automotive Grade Linux," which presumably would pave the way for a variety of open source in-car systems.

All of them will have to compete with the entrenched incumbents. Microsoft has offered its MyFord Touch software for cars for a while now, albeit with limited success. And Ford recently dumped Microsoft's system for a one based on BlackBerry's QNX, an even older OS that's designed specifically for use in embedded systems.

Given Android's success in the phone market, however – a standard by which Tizen falls short – and Google's sheer size, it seems likely that at least a few automakers will get on board when Android M arrives.

According to insiders, that should happen in about a year or so. ®

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