Google's new alliance aims at moving Android into automobiles

If you had any doubt that cars are shaping up as the new battlefield for consumer electronics and software, consider this news from Google and four auto-makers, along with the chip company Nvida.

The companies launched what they’re calling an “Open Automotive Alliance” on Monday to work on creating standards and making it easier to integrate Google’s Android mobile software into cars.

The new alliance, which includes Audi, General Motors, Honda and Hyundai, comes on the heels of other recent collaborative efforts by Apple and Microsoft with such major auto-makers as GM, Ford, Toyota and others.

As we’ve reported before, car companies are increasingly positioning their products as a platform for Internet connectivity and all kinds of related services, from navigation to communications and entertainment.  Ford executive Sheryl Connelly told a Churchill Club audience last year that younger motorists, especially, want their cars to do more than provide transportation.

“The worlds of consumer and automotive technologies have never been more closely aligned, and this alliance will only pave the way for faster innovation,” said Audi executive Ricky Hudi in a statement Monday.

Tech companies, meanwhile, are racing to stake their claims on the automotive front:  If people are going to be going online in their cars, Google wants them to be using its services – not a competitor’s.  Likewise for Apple and Microsoft.  All three tech companies are now working to integrate their voice-activated services into cars.

“Millions of people are already familiar with Android and use it everyday,” said Google senior vice president Sundar Pichai.  “The expansion of the Android platform into automotive will allow our industry partners to more easily integrate mobile technology into cars and offer drivers a familiar seamless experience so they can focus on the road.”

The new grouping is reminiscent of a similar industry alliance that Google used to promote Android as a platform for smartphones several years back.

Still analysts note that integrating the new technology is not an easy task. Critics have complained that dashboard electronics are getting increasingly complicated, and balky. Consider this account from Steve Henn of National Public Radio, who reported today on his difficulties figuring out the new technology during a test drive arranged by Audi and Nvidia.

(Photo of Audi Sport quattro laserlight concept car, courtesy of Audi USA.)


Brandon Bailey Brandon Bailey (350 Posts)

Brandon Bailey covers Google, Facebook and Yahoo for the San Jose Mercury News, reporting on the business and culture of the Internet.