Google I/O: Android is coming to automobiles

Google is revving its Android engine: at its annual developer's conference, Google I/O, Google announced Android Auto, the first automobile-specific operating system that works with Android.

Elijah Nouvelage/REUTERS
A Google employee demonstrates Android Auto onstage during a keynote address at the Google I/O developers conference in San Francisco June 25, 2014. Google Inc said on Wednesday the first cars running Android Auto will hit showrooms later this year, after the Internet search giant signed on 40 auto-industry partners for its car-software development alliance.

Google’s I/O developer conference clarified one thing to the tech world: Android is coming to you, wherever you are.

One big example of that is the release of Android Auto, an operating system specifically made for Android in vehicles. The voice-enabled controls would allow customers to be able to access their devices and the Android app ecosystem, without having to fumble with their device while driving. This comes after Apple introduced CarPlay, an iOS operating system for cars.

Essentially, Android Auto is like Google Now for your car. The operating system has sensory understanding of what goes on around it, meaning it is aware when you enter the car, learns your driving and digital habits, and can operate using voice commands. The interface will mirror a vehicle’s dashboard with quick access to apps such as navigation, phone, and music.

Nearly everything you can do on your phone can be done using voice commands. You can dictate text messages and emails (plus the car can read them aloud to you), tell the car where you need to go for quick Maps directions, and even tell the car what music you want to listen to.

Google is even debuting a specific SDK for Android Auto, so developers can create auto specific apps. The tech will likely hit showrooms later this year.

Android Auto is already partnered with over 40 automakers though the Open Automotive Alliance formed earlier this year in order to bring operating systems and automobile manufacturing together. 25 of those car manufacturers, including Ford, Honda, and Volvo, say they will have the operating system enabled in future cars.

This announcement comes alongside a bevy of Android announcements at Google’s annual I/O developer’s conference. Overall, Google is looking to make Android more pervasive within peoples’ lives with more development for wearable devices, such as smart watches, and a specific OS for television, Android TV.

Connecting mobile and auto is something many tech companies have been working on for some time, in hopes of ameliorating the danger of distracted driving while pushing for more seamless integration of mobile device and operating systems into more areas of consumers’ lives. With CarPlay, Apple was the first to debut an operating system specifically for cars. It is no surprise that Google, with Android, was not far behind.

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