Google to develop in-car technology for Audi

Next week at the Consumer Electronics Show, Google and automaker Audi will announce their plans to collaboratively develop software for in-car entertainment and information based on Android systems, according to the Wall Street Journal. It plans to utilize Google's 'Google Now' system, a rival to Apple's Siri, as a way to centralize the systems within the vehicle.

Google's ultimate plan for all of this is to "establish Android as an important technology for future vehicles", and to "allow drivers and passengers to access music, navigation, apps and services that are similar to those widely available now on Android-powered smartphones". This signals the increasing foray from mobile developers into the automotive world, a market which has thus far remained largely untapped. But with announcements from Google and Apple, two of the largest mobile phone manufacturers, the 'car of the future' seen in shows like Knight Rider and Batman may soon become a reality.

The preemptive announcement comes after Apple's announcement in May that they'd be launching an initiative to integrate Siri and Apple Maps with car dashboards, and so far they have a few automakers on board: BMW, GM, Honda and Mercedes-Benz. But contrary to Apple's plan to provide technology to these auto manufacturers, Google plans to directly integrate their Android software with the car's built-in hardware. And as the mobile manufacturers ramp up their expansion into other markets, 2014 is looking to be an exciting year for technological developments. 

Source: Wall Street JournalImage via Shutterstock - Google phone at Chinese temple ceremony

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Where's the news in this story? For several months now Audi has been testing a Meego-based in-car infotainment system at the Nurburgring in Germany. The system, developed in Italy and Finland, will first be seen in Lamborghini vehicles later this year. Reporting this would have been far more interesting.

It would also be interesting to report on how Google plans to make money on this.

will I be able to have a system choice screen when I start the car the first time? shouldn't be to hard to force that through in Europe

This is good news. More competition will force others to step up their game. I love Sync in my Shelby and I actually love it more than the system in my Mercedes.

It is strange that each time I read about Apple or Google doing car integration technology, the articles never mention, as if they don't realize that Sync has been available in Ford and other brands of cars for several years now. (Even this one reads like Google is copying Apple, which is just a bit weird and out of context of the technologies.)

I know Microsoft has done a horrible job of promoting their technology, and even supporting their own technology, as Sync (Windows based) works better with Android or an iPhone than a Windows Phone because of the open App API Microsoft designed that wasn't fully support on WP7, and even with WP8 has to use a custom layer.

Ahh bloo bloo bloo.. Nobody cares about Sync, bud. Thats the problem. It doesnt stir consumer excitement much like all the Windows branded mobile products. Just like nobody cared about Windows Mobile in the 2000's even when MS managed to get some marketshare before they of course abandoned it (and didn't wake up again and realize it was something they shouldve continued with until the rest of the world had already passed them by).

Unfortunately its going to take a Google or Apple to come along and "do it right" and since Android has become the windows of mobile, makes sense for more manufacturers to start integrating with the most popular and common lightweight and mobile OS in the world.

As a Brit I had never heard of Microsoft Sync until I hired a car (Ford Escape) whilst on vacation in the USA, it doesn't seem very popular here in the UK. Granted I was using a Zune but it worked really well for me and I would definitely specify it as an option if it was available in the UK.

ardenx said,
Ahh bloo bloo bloo.. Nobody cares about Sync, bud. Thats the problem. It doesnt stir consumer excitement much like all the Windows branded mobile products. Just like nobody cared about Windows Mobile in the 2000's even when MS managed to get some marketshare before they of course abandoned it (and didn't wake up again and realize it was something they shouldve continued with until the rest of the world had already passed them by).

Unfortunately its going to take a Google or Apple to come along and "do it right" and since Android has become the windows of mobile, makes sense for more manufacturers to start integrating with the most popular and common lightweight and mobile OS in the world.

The strange part has NOTHING to do with Sync itself, expect that it is used in nearly 100% of Ford cars, which is the NUMBER one selling brand of cars in the US in 2013.

It is also used in other brands and is in use around the world in 10s of millions of cars, yet all the 'tech' articles truly don't realize it has been around for 1/2 a decade.

When nearly 20% of the cars in the world have a technology, you would think it might be mentioned, when specifically talking about the same technology in cars.

It would be like writing an article about American Sports cars and forgetting to mention the Corvette.

I personally don't like Sync and I don't like Ford, but that again is beside the point.
It is old tech that needs to be updated/replaced, I agree with you, but that wasn't my point.

Why the comments about WM, that have NOTHING to do with this conversation? Also, Microsoft never abandoned WM, in fact, you can still buy it today. Look it up...

*As for your 'bloo bloo' part... Really?

My vision is that smartphones will be the centre of everything.

Instead of having fully fledged tablets, laptops, desktops, we'll just have shells with the appropriate screens and peripherals that you can plug your smartphone into. Each app would have smartphone/tablet/desktop versions and the appropriate one would launch depending on what 'mode' it's currently being used in. Clearly storage size would need to increase massively for this to be practical. Much like the Asus padfone, but better.

Likewise with the car. Your dashboard will just be an in-car display of what's on your smartphone.

how can you not see that as feasible? most tablets used that are not based on Intel chipsets are the very same hardware as the high end smartphones in terms of cpu ram gpu. why not extending this to bigger screens with just one unit. it not like notebook/tablet docks would be a thing from the future

according to the Panasonic page, they are saying that the apps are built on HTML5. Could be a fork, certainly. Much like, say, the WD TV is based on Android

currently drive an audi. if this comes standard in future audis, when I upgrade im either gonna have to rip out the whole system, or,gulp, abandon audi completely. They are stabbing their customers in the back by partnering with the most greasy company in the world. yuck.

vcfan said,
currently drive an audi. if this comes standard in future audis, when I upgrade im either gonna have to rip out the whole system, or,gulp, abandon audi completely. They are stabbing their customers in the back by partnering with the most greasy company in the world. yuck.

Who company is not greasy?. Apple?, MS?, Samsung?.. well, good luck with those.

Kaa-Ching said,
goodluck with 'ripping out the system', it doesn't sound like you have any idea how a car works, and in any case, most obvious trolling ever. We get it, you don't like google.

im pretty sure im well versed with how car electronics work, afterall, I spent most of my career designing fleet management software and hardware for cabs.

as for my opinion of google, its just that,my own opinion. just like how some people have strong opinions about governments, the NSA, politicians,retailers,etc... love it or leave it. no need to get bent out of shape about it.

Other sites are treating this like Apple already has the lead, Google is playing me too, and Microsoft hasn't started looking at it. And yet, Microsoft has been in this area for years and has their software in millions of cars.

Mr. Hand said,
I'm sure it will be fine, but they're far behind Microsoft on embedded systems.

But Microsoft is also many years behind blackberry QNX software.

Mr. Hand said,

Why would you think that? Embedded Windows is older than RIM the company.

QNX been in the embedded business for 30+ years.

Snake89 said,

QNX been in the embedded business for 30+ years.

So you're claiming it pre-dates when we really started using embedded operating systems? In the old days the entire system was custom coded and didn't use an OS as we didn't have much hardware capability.

Mr. Hand said,

So you're claiming it pre-dates when we really started using embedded operating systems? In the old days the entire system was custom coded and didn't use an OS as we didn't have much hardware capability.

you my friend needs to go do some more research, embedded systems been around for over 50 years.

I think they're discussing 2 different things here. Google wants to integrate Android similar to what Ford has with Sync. You press a button and tell the car to do something.

What Apple is doing is integrating with the car mic such that it communicates with the phone properly. Though I'm sure the Google thing will play nice with Android phones natively.

I think any Bluetooth head unit will let you control the phone by voice if the phone supports it. It's just like talking to it using a headset. Oddly enough the Microsoft Sync system works better with a Android Samsung than a Nokia Windows Phone because the Nokia lacks MAP support.

Astra.Xtreme said,
I think they're discussing 2 different things here. Google wants to integrate Android similar to what Ford has with Sync. You press a button and tell the car to do something.

What Apple is doing is integrating with the car mic such that it communicates with the phone properly. Though I'm sure the Google thing will play nice with Android phones natively.

In your head, how will what Apple is doing be an example of, "with the car mic such that it communicates with the phone properly?"

It is almost like you see some magical difference between what Apple is doing, yet identify one of things they are technically doing that is almost identical.

How does Apple doing it make it magical?

Mobius Enigma said,

In your head, how will what Apple is doing be an example of, "with the car mic such that it communicates with the phone properly?"

It is almost like you see some magical difference between what Apple is doing, yet identify one of things they are technically doing that is almost identical.

How does Apple doing it make it magical?

What are you going on about? Seriously, what's with the cocky attitude?
I never said anything about Apple being magical, so what's with your delusions?

I don't think I can possibly explain it any better than I already have, so perhaps you need to calm down and reread what I said...

Astra.Xtreme said,

What are you going on about? Seriously, what's with the cocky attitude?
I never said anything about Apple being magical, so what's with your delusions?

I don't think I can possibly explain it any better than I already have, so perhaps you need to calm down and reread what I said...

Ok, try again. What is Apple doing properly.

This means nothing...
"What Apple is doing is integrating with the car mic such that it communicates with the phone properly"

What is 'properly'? How do you define 'properly'? Why is Apple doing it 'properly'?

I'm sure it makes sense in your head, but on the page, not so much.

I apologize if my comment has tone, that was not my intent.

Mobius Enigma said,

Ok, try again. What is Apple doing properly.

This means nothing...
"What Apple is doing is integrating with the car mic such that it communicates with the phone properly"

What is 'properly'? How do you define 'properly'? Why is Apple doing it 'properly'?

I'm sure it makes sense in your head, but on the page, not so much.

I apologize if my comment has tone, that was not my intent.

Uh... it's English grammar...

Have you not ever heard somebody say: "It works properly." or "I want it to work properly."? Perhaps freshen up on how the word "properly" can be used in a sentence.

If I have a Siri-supported car, I want it to work properly. I don't have the slightest clue what you're not understanding... Or maybe you just don't know what Apple is integrating into cars... Google it.

I never put Apple up on a pedestal, so I have no idea why you're so distraught about it.

I for one, uncheck any box that includes a ipod dock or built-in GPS units, and would personally avoid a car that integrates the system so much as to make getting a proper head unit difficult.

I agree. I just wish every car's infotainment system could use Google Maps (or whatever navigation app is on your phone), Siri/Google Now, make calls, read and reply to text messages (and maybe even emails) regardless of phone/OS - all while integrating this into the BMW HUD!

One can dream

Kalint said,
Good cause iDrive sucks
Ok, why does it suck, compared to what system, and have you used the latest iDrive? I've used Ford's sync, Mercedes COMAND, and Audi MMI. They all have pros/cons, but I found iDrive to be intuitive, easy to use, and powerful.

tsupersonic said,
Ok, why does it suck, compared to what system, and have you used the latest iDrive? I've used Ford's sync, Mercedes COMAND, and Audi MMI. They all have pros/cons, but I found iDrive to be intuitive, easy to use, and powerful.

No I haven't used the latest, I'm looking to buying a 2012 335i which I think is iDrive 3.0. But Toyota and Cadillac are personally better for me as they're touch screens and make tasks like map navigation so much easier.

Kalint said,

No I haven't used the latest, I'm looking to buying a 2012 335i which I think is iDrive 3.0. But Toyota and Cadillac are personally better for me as they're touch screens and make tasks like map navigation so much easier.

iDrive is greatly improved from the first versions. And other companies, such as Audi are even copying it. BMWs arriving now have touch screens. The facelifted 5er has it, and the X3/X4 to be introduced in April will have a touch screen. I am not sure, but I believe the just released X5 may have it.

Kalint said,

No I haven't used the latest, I'm looking to buying a 2012 335i which I think is iDrive 3.0. But Toyota and Cadillac are personally better for me as they're touch screens and make tasks like map navigation so much easier.

Like WhatTheSchmidt said, iDrive is completely different than its first iteration. It is much improved, and the integration with the HUD is amazing. I see Audi and MB now finally integrating HUD's in their car, so you know BMW is doing something right.

Regarding touchscreens - you do NOT want touchscreens in car. I tried out the Cadillac CUE and it was miserable. It makes you take your eyes off the road to do anything. Give me buttons/controller with a HUD - it keeps your eyes on the road. The newest iDrive controller has a touchpad, so you can write letters on the dial controller. The single BEST feature of the iDrive system is how it integrates with Google Maps on a smartphone - I can send an address from my phone to the car, which then starts the navigation to the address from the car.

tsupersonic said,

Regarding touchscreens - you do NOT want touchscreens in car. I tried out the Cadillac CUE and it was miserable. It makes you take your eyes off the road to do anything. Give me buttons/controller with a HUD - it keeps your eyes on the road.

Actually you want both - touch screen to enter the destination into the GPS before you leave, and the existing controls for changes while driving.

Kalint - you would really choose a Toyota over a BMW simply because it would have a touch screen?

WhatTheSchmidt said,

Actually you want both - touch screen to enter the destination into the GPS before you leave, and the existing controls for changes while driving.

Kalint - you would really choose a Toyota over a BMW simply because it would have a touch screen?

I worded that wrong. No I'm getting a BMW.

WhatTheSchmidt said,

Actually you want both - touch screen to enter the destination into the GPS before you leave, and the existing controls for changes while driving.

Kalint - you would really choose a Toyota over a BMW simply because it would have a touch screen?

I think you missed a super important point from my previous post. I'll requote it for you - "The single BEST feature of the iDrive system is how it integrates with Google Maps on a smartphone - I can send an address from my phone to the car, which then starts the navigation to the address from the car."

I'm willing to bet you can't input an address as fast into your car as you can on your phone, then send it to your car. Let me take it one step further - I can have the address sent to my car before I even enter the car (ex: at home, work, etc.). Besides that, BMW gives you 8 preset buttons that you can program to anything in iDrive (not just radio stations). So, one of the buttons can be a "navigate to home" button.

OK, if you want to use your phone to enter an address, then that is fine. But it is not always the best method. If it were, then they would get rid of the controls and just make you enter everything through your phone.

I usually keep my phone in my back pocket. While on a trip I wanted the GF to make changes to our itinerary (I don't even like using the existing controls to make changes). If we had a touch screen, should could easily make changes while my phone stays in my pocket.

I think being able to control it with a phone is good, but don't limit me because you don't want a touch screen.

WhatTheSchmidt said,
OK, if you want to use your phone to enter an address, then that is fine. But it is not always the best method. If it were, then they would get rid of the controls and just make you enter everything through your phone.

I usually keep my phone in my back pocket. While on a trip I wanted the GF to make changes to our itinerary (I don't even like using the existing controls to make changes). If we had a touch screen, should could easily make changes while my phone stays in my pocket.

I think being able to control it with a phone is good, but don't limit me because you don't want a touch screen.

Sure, choice is good. I just hate car makers moving all the functions to use the touch screen - like climate controls. Not a huge fan of touchscreens as it requires too much focus off the road. Buttons/controllers imo are the way to go. It's one thing if just the infotainment system is touchscreen, but to make all the other features controlled through the infotainment system or have no buttons (capacitive controls) is just terrible. In fact, Ford got a lot of negative criticism and added knobs/dials back into the newer lineup.

But will it work for all the iPhones that Audi owners have? Apparently they don't understand their demographic very well at all.

If Apple has BMW and Mercedes and Google has Audi, Microsoft better get a fancy car soon too. Steve Ballmer once pasted a Ferrari into Windows Write, so that might be a good place to start.

Bluetooth wireless should be enough, the GUI doesn't have to match.

The average car market is much larger than the luxury car market. There is probably more money with Ford Sync by Microsoft.

Yeah, considering most Audi owners will most likely own an iPhone it does make this an interesting move. Maybe this might make people stop and think before dismissing Android as a "cheap" brand for people who cannot afford an iPhone. Just my thoughts anyway.

chAos972 said,
But will it work for all the iPhones that Audi owners have? Apparently they don't understand their demographic very well at all.

Why not? So many cars have iDevice docks and iOS specific controls, why is this any different?

Anyway, I presume this will just the the car's entertainment system. You should still be able to stream media over DLNA etc etc. It just has android as the onboard OS instead of JAVA, presumably this will be good because you actually have a standardised OS of sorts, you can sync to it, push navigation routes from the phone, Google Play Music and Movies (if it has rear seat screens) and even games I suppose. It will be interesting to see how far they go. I'm all for it.

One of the great things with Android /WinRT is they can be scaled onto all sorts of embedded platforms. iOS/OSX can't.

I don't think that the choice of phone has any effect. The way I read it they're talking about actually running the ICE with Android as the base OS, and using Google services to provide traffic updates, satnav, etc through the car's centre console or HUD.

MSFT and ford have close ties. And honestly there are a lot more F150 pickup trucks out there than audis, bmw's and mercs combined.

neonspark said,
MSFT and ford have close ties. And honestly there are a lot more F150 pickup trucks out there than audis, bmw's and mercs combined.

Only in the USA. Pickups aren't particularly popular in other parts of the world, at least as far as I've seen (i.e. UK and parts of Europe). BMWs, Mercedes, etc are much more popular there.