Google teams up to create Android dashboards for cars

At International CES, four automakers, a chipmaker, and Google announced a partnership to bring Android technology to a car dashboard in hopes of converging the convenience of apps with driver safety.

John Minchillo/AP
A Kia "Hamstar" mascot poses for a photograph with the newly unveiled 2014 Kia Soul during the 2013 New York International Auto Show Wednesday in New York. The updated people mover comes with electric steering that allows drivers to choose comfort, normal, and sport settings.

A smarter car – and driver – may not be far in the future. At International CES, Google announced a partnership between Audi, GM, Honda, Hyundai, and chip manufacturer Nvidia aimed at creating an Android chip for the cars of the future.

“Common platforms allow for one connected experience across our phone, tablet and PC, so we get the right information at the right time, no matter what device we’re using,” says Patrick Brady, the director of Android engineering in a blog post. “But there’s still an important device that isn’t yet connected as seamlessly to the other screens in our lives the car.”

The partnership is called the Open Automotive Alliance, or OAA, and will allocate funds and resources of the five companies toward making the Android tech more compatible with car technology, as soon as later this year.

Though it isn’t a huge surprise that auto-manufacturers are teaming up with Google (the Wall Street Journal broke the story of Audi partnering with Android last week), the scope of the partnership is surprising to some, as the Journal originally reported the partnership was just with Audi.

So what’s the advantage of a car running on Android? The implications run from the stereo to safety.

Already smart-chip technology has been used to streamline in-car entertainment – at the New York Auto show last year, the 2014 Kia Soul showed off an Android-powered infotainment system. In his blog post, Mr. Brady added that integrating Android apps to a cars system would allow drivers the extent of their apps, along with safer driving conditions.

“Today, millions of people already bring Android phones and tablets into their cars, but it’s not yet a driving-optimized experience,” he says. “Wouldn't it be great if you could bring your favorite apps and music with you, and use them safely with your car's built-in controls and in-dash display?”

Currently, phone distraction is a factor that increases the rate of crashes among both experienced and inexperienced drivers. A recently published study from the New England Journal of Medicine showed that crash rates increased by eight times in novice drivers when dialing a mobile device, and nearly three times for experienced drivers.

The OAA has also already been in touch with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which might ensure their innovations are federally approved.

With GPS, social media, and calling applications standard on most smart phones, it isn’t likely that people will leave their mobile devices at home due to the risk of a crash. OAA partners say that bringing Android to the dashboard will hopefully marry the two in a less distracting way.

“The worlds of consumer and automotive technologies have never been more closely aligned, and this alliance will only pave the way for faster innovation,” says Ricky Hudi, Head of Electrics/Electronics Development at AUDI AG, in a press release from OAA. “Working toward a common ecosystems benefits driver safety above all.”

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