Search engine giant Google has ramped up its efforts to bring Android to cars by announcing the formation of the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA).
The OAA is a group of technology and automotive companies that want to customize Google's mobile operating system Android for use in vehicles. Included in this group are, among others, General Motors, Honda Motors, Audi, Hyundai, and chip maker Nvidia. The alliance will allow technology companies and car manufacturers to get their heads together and modernize both software and vehicles, and eventually bring them together in a range of exciting new smart cars that can keep pace with the soaring growth and sales of smartphones worldwide.
"The OAA is dedicated to a common platform that will drive innovation, and make technology in the safer and more intuitive for everyone," the group said, adding it is "aimed at accelerating auto innovation with an approach that offers openness, customization and scale, key tenets that have already made Android a familiar part of millions of people's lives."
"This open development model and common platform will allow automakers to more easily bring cutting-edge technology to their drivers, and create new opportunities for developers to deliver powerful experiences for drivers and passengers in a safe and scalable way," it said.
One of the top trends at 2014 International CES (also known as CES 2014) is the concept of car-as-gadget. Participating in this trend are Volkwagen's Audi Unit, and General Motors. This trend in the CES is coming after the wave of custom in-car software systems, as seen, for instance, in Ford Motors's collaboration with Microsoft to create the MyFord Touch, which pairs cars with mobile devices and allows sophisticated features such as voice commands. Other carmakers, use the QNX software, variants of the Linux operating system, or other homegrown software. But since this requires software companies to write different applications for each carmaker in order to differentiate them from their rivals, the process is costly and time-consuming, eventually causing car companies to reject these new technology in favor of stable and proven ones.
However, the rise of the smartphone technology - and the rise of its sales and popularity - has put some pressure on the automotive industry, coupled with the changing needs of the market. Gone are the days when passengers would be content to just watch a movie on the DVD player during a trip. With the age of tablets and perpetual connectivity, people want in-car entertainment to be much more interactive. Also, the highly effective mapping systems on smartphones have propelled car manufacturers to rethink and improve their own GPS systems, for a total driving experience.
"We have been in contact with government agencies like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)," the OAA said. "Our goal is to build an experience that helps drivers get what they're looking for without disrupting their focus on the road."
Some partnerships have made earlier attempts to collaborate on coming up with cars that have an integrated software system. For instance, in 2009, BMW, General Motors, Intel, and others, announced the Genivi Alliance, which centered on the Linux operating system, with modest results.
However, Android, a variant of Linux, has an advantage over other software because of its dominance in the mobile device industry. Electronics hardware manufacturers tend to test and tune new components first for Android, which in turn developed and gathered a deep interest around the software. App makers are now also very much adept at creating software for Android platform.
The creation of the OAA, closely resembles Google's announcement of the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) in 2007, for the purpose of promoting Android as a smartphone operating system. By requiring its members to agree that they will not produce devices that run incompatible forks of Android, the OHA effectively kept the OS on a focused development track. The OHA now has over 80 members, and Android has become the world's most popular smartphone OS.