Audi already incorporates Android Auto and Apple CarPlay within its highly advanced MMI infotainment systems, but at this year’s Google I/O developer conference in Mountain View, California the German…

Audi teases Android open source in-car infotainment to app developers

2017 Audi Q8 Concept
Audi’s sensational Q8 Concept is the rolling platform for a new Android-based infotainment system. (Photo: Audi)

Audi already incorporates Android Auto and Apple CarPlay within its highly advanced MMI infotainment systems, but at this year’s Google I/O developer conference in Mountain View, California the German brand offered the Android open source community’s millions of members a new opportunity to share in the development of its next-generation in-car infotainment systems.

An Android HMI solution was already fully integrated within the new Audi Q8 sport concept on display at the Google I/O event, the stylish five-door SUV prototype having first been shown earlier in the year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on January 9. The question Audi had for show-goers was, how can the collective expertise of the Android open source community speed up development of future in-car apps?

2017 Audi Q8 Concept
The beautiful Q8 cabin includes some pretty impressive Android-based tech. (Photo: Audi)

With seven thousand attendees taking part in the conference, plus millions worldwide involved over the internet, there was no shortage of forward-thinking minds contemplating all the possible applications for Audi’s next-generation Android infotainment system.

The three-day Google I/O event is considered the largest and most important developer conference in the global software industry, so reason enough for Audi’s involvement. Of interest to attendees would be the Q8 sport concept’s technology platform, already infused with new Android-based apps like the Spotify streaming service, Google Play Music, and Google Assistant, which were all running on the vehicle’s sizeable MMI touchscreen display atop the centre dash.

2017 Audi Q8 Concept
This updated version of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit works even more seamlessly with the centre stack-mounted infotainment display than the current one. (Photo: Audi)

Of note, most infotainment system functions are also visible within Audi’s innovative Virtual Cockpit, a fully configurable colour TFT primary gauge cluster positioned in the driver’s direct field of view.

Marking the first time such services have been fully integrated within Audi’s brand-specific infotainment system, its conventional in-house navigation route-guidance and mapping system now combines with Google Maps, allowing those more familiar with the internet-based system to use it instead. The new Q8 concept’s infotainment setup also includes a message centre for incoming SMS messages, emails and calls.

2017 Audi Q8 Concept
Check out the longer video below for some examples of what this stunning system can do. (Photo: Audi)

According to Audi, the seamless integration of Android offers great potential. Android is now the most popular mobile platform globally, with more than 1.4 billion active users. Servicing that platform is an open Android community that’s deep in expertise and creativity, and therefore capable of quickening new application development. Due to on-board Wi-Fi, such new applications could immediately be integrated within any new vehicles’ infotainment system. Additionally, update cycles could be made considerably shorter, plus the diversity of services much wider, and international availability more prevalent.

2017 Audi Q8 Concept
The Q8 Concept’s rear seats look ultra-comfortable, but as importantly rear passengers are digitally connected by a centre touchscreen display. (Photo: Audi)

Aligning with the makers of the most popular smartphone and tablet operating systems only makes sense, being that in-car infotainment is becoming increasingly important in the sale of new cars, some younger buyers choosing their cars partially because of the electronics within. Familiarity to a car’s infotainment interface while on the test drive, including the ability to use it in the same ways as their smartphone or tablet, could make or break the sale of a new vehicle, as well as owner satisfaction once that sale is completed and the customer is in the “getting to know you” stage.

2017 Audi Q8 Concept
This rear display allows rear passengers their own infotainment functions. (Photo: Audi)

Turning to Android’s open source philosophy for future infotainment development is in sharp contrast to Audi rival Lexus and its parent company Toyota, which have eschewed both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in place of their own proprietary systems dubbed Enform and Entune respectively. The latter two systems could very well succeed, but electronics history is littered with proprietary failures like Sony’s Memory Stick that was thwarted by SD cards, the same Japanese brand’s Beta videotapes replaced by VHS, and the list goes on.

Refreshingly, Audi sees a different type of fully connected mobility, where people can “pursue any activity they want in the car of the future.” Audi hopes that its “integrated Android system will enable them to use the entire world of smartphone apps in the car,” which certainly makes a lot of sense to us.

To learn more, check out two videos that show the new Audi Q8 Concept along with some impressive detail of its ultra-advanced Android-based infotainment system. The short version runs for just 50 seconds, whereas the second video runs for 8:30, with the in-depth infotainment demo beginning at 6:35:



Let’s face it. The majority of today’s consumers hook up to the digital world through an Apple or Android smartphone, and the ability to use either technology within our vehicles makes life a lot…

Acura adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to 2018 MDX

2018 Acura MDX
Apple CarPlay (upper display) has been lauded for making auto infotainment more user-friendly, while the 2018 MDX will also feature standard Android Auto (lower display). (Photo: Acura)

Let’s face it. The majority of today’s consumers hook up to the digital world through an Apple or Android smartphone, and the ability to use either technology within our vehicles makes life a lot easier.

That’s the premise behind Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the former noted for providing the Cupertino, California firm’s easy usability and trademark graphics within various cars’ central infotainment displays, while the latter more widely popular Seattle-sourced operating system does likewise, albeit without proprietary visual and functional designs.

2018 Acura MDX
Google’s Android operating system is now more popular than Apple’s iPhone system. (Photo: Acura)

While Honda’s namesake models have had Apple CarPlay and Android Auto incorporated within their single-screen infotainment systems for some time, Acura has been patiently waiting to receive them for its unique dual-display setup. The recently updated 2018 TLX received the two technologies earlier this year, so now the 2018 MDX, which was refreshed last year, will benefit from both smartphone-mirroring interfaces.

The TLX and MDX incorporate the Apple and Android interfaces within their larger top displays and leave the lower touchscreen, plus the rotating dial and buttons below, for control.

2018 Acura MDX
Amongst other features, the two smartphone-mirroring systems let you plot out navigation coordinates at home before traveling, which are then incorporated within the car’s infotainment display. (Photo: Acura)

Along with adding the Apple and Android upgrades to the TLX infotainment system it also received improvements to the stock display, with more logically organized functions and quicker response times. These changes will improve the MDX infotainment user experience whether linking your smartphone up to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto or not, plus the smartphone-mirroring technologies will be standard across the 2018 MDX line.

2018 Acura MDX
Red is the new colour theme for the 2018 MDX. (Photo: Acura)

Acura’s U.S. division has also shown new colours for the 2018 MDX, which will likely be available here in Canada as well, although the automaker’s Canadian division has made no announcements. This said, Basque Red and San Marino Red would be vivid additions to a lineup that only had Dark Cherry Pearl available for red fans last year, the only other colours being Obsidian Blue Pearl and Black Copper Pearl. This is why we mostly see the MDX in shades of Crystal Black Pearl, Modern Steel Metallic (a medium grey), Lunar Silver Metallic, and White Diamond Pearl.

No pricing or other modifications have been announced for the 2018 MDX, but it is expected to move into the new model year unchanged, other than the revisions just noted.

Will tomorrow’s consumers be matching their next car purchase to their smartphones? It’s entirely possible. Some automakers have already drawn their respective lines in the sand, with Porsche choosing…

Volvo partnering with Google for new Android-based OS

Volvo partnering with Google for new Android-based OS
Volvo is partnering with Google to build Android into its next-gen connected cars, taking its award-winning Sensus infotainment system to new levels. (Photo: Volvo)

Will tomorrow’s consumers be matching their next car purchase to their smartphones?

It’s entirely possible. Some automakers have already drawn their respective lines in the sand, with Porsche choosing Apple CarPlay over Android Auto due to their own market research that reportedly shows a better brand alignment with the Cupertino company, whereas Toyota and its Lexus division are opting to go their own route entirely, which might make their proprietary infotainment systems the modern-day automotive equivalent of Sony’s Beta VCR, which was a better format than VHS but not backed by the industry.

It’s a fact that many more smartphones are now sold with Google’s Android operating system than Apple’s iOS, let alone Microsoft’s Windows Phone and, ahem, RIM’s Blackberry, and in certain markets, like China and the rest of Asia, the smartphone market is skewed even more towards the larger Seattle-based tech firm’s OS technology.

Volvo partnering with Google for new Android-based OS
Volvo’s latest models, like the new 2018 XC60, already feature one of the industry’s best infotainment interfaces, but Google’s Android OS will make it faster, more flexible, plus fill it with more apps and services. (Photo: Volvo)

Volvo’s latest award-winning tablet-style Sensus infotainment and connectivity system already incorporates Google’s Android Auto as well as Apple CarPlay, and has been praised for the slick way the two interfaces integrate within, but it appears the Chinese-owned Swedish brand has chosen to delve deeper into Pacific Northwest waters by contracting Google to develop the entire backend of its future Sensus system.

According to Volvo, its next-generation infotainment and connectivity systems will arrive within two years, and offer access to a wide selection of apps plus connected and predictive services developed by Google, Volvo, and third parties, for use in and around the vehicle.

Volvo partnering with Google for new Android-based OS
Volvo uses a vertical tablet-style touchscreen that’s ideal for the Android OS integration. (Photo: Volvo)

“We are making an important strategic step with the Google partnership,” said Henrik Green, Senior Vice President Research & Development at Volvo Car Group. “Google’s platform and services will enhance the user experience by enabling more personalization possibilities, while Android will offer increased flexibility from a development perspective.”

This is just another sign that the automotive and tech worlds are converging, something we’ve all been witnessing via newscasts of Google’s odd little self-driving prototype car tooling around city streets, plus the plethora of new ride hailing and sharing startups. Some of these newcomers have been founded by or snapped up by major automakers, so it only makes sense that Volvo also believes “smart partnerships are the future for the car industry.”

Volvo partnering with Google for new Android-based OS
Before the full Android OS arrives two years from now, Volvo will update current customers’ navigation systems with Google Local Search, shown here. (Photo: Volvo)

So how will Volvo and its legions of loyal customers benefit? The Android OS promises faster speeds and greater development flexibility, plus the ability for customer personalization.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Volvo to bring Android into their next generation connected cars,” said Patrick Brady, Vice President of Android Engineering at Google. “This partnership gives us the opportunity to deliver a more seamless experience to Volvo drivers through a full-featured infotainment platform and rich ecosystem of Android applications and Google services.”

“With the advent of Android we will embrace a rich ecosystem while keeping our iconic Volvo user interface,” added Green. “We will offer hundreds of popular apps and the best integrated experience in this broad, connected environment.”

Rather than wait until the fully integrated system is available, Volvo and Google are already collaborating on a location based service app dubbed Google Local Search, which will be installed through a regular update to current Volvo customers who anted up for the Sensus Navigation system.

To see more, check out the following video:

Tokyo – Automotive Linux Summit – Wednesday May 31, 2017 – Toyota Motor Corp announced that the new 2018 Toyota Camry will be sold in the United States with an infotainment system called…

Toyota Announces a Linux Based Infotainment System for the 2018 Toyota Camry

Tokyo – Automotive Linux Summit – Wednesday May 31, 2017 – Toyota Motor Corp announced that the new 2018 Toyota Camry will be sold in the United States with an infotainment system called the Entune 3.0 that runs on Automotive Grade Linux.

Automotive Grade Linux, also known as AGL, is an open source software platform based on Linux, specifically designed for automobiles. Ten global car manufacturers including Mazda, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Honda and Mitsubishi already use it. The purpose of the initiative is to work with other car companies to try and speed up innovation for vehicle applications. Automakers will have the ability to fully customize the applications without having to rely on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

When a manufacturer develops a new car it requires around 100 million lines of computer code. Approximately 70 percent of it is generic. This means the remaining 30 percent is customized to the specific model. The amount of coding required is one reason why vehicle development takes so long. It doesn’t stop there however, the code needs to be constantly updated and refined to ensure proper operation. The largest vice for current and past infotainment systems in vehicles is how quickly they become outdated. According to a press release by Toyota VP Keiji Yamamoto the AGL platform gives, “greater connectivity and new functionalities at a pace that is more consistent with consumer technology.”

By working with open source software such as AGL, changes can be made more rapidly and don’t require a manufacturer to write 100 million lines of new code every single time an adjustment needs to be made.

Working with companies like Ford, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Suzuki will help Toyota minimize costs and development time. Toyota says the partnership can also help create an industry standard that can operate all internal devices such as music, media and navigation. The collaboration with AGL may also allow future integration of technologies such as autonomous driving functions and integrated car services.

Toyota is reducing its dependency on third party companies like Apple and Alphabet (Google/Android Auto) to have greater control of their products. Another reason for Toyota and other car manufacturers to change is to gain control of all the user data. AGL will store all user data that would otherwise be recorded by Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Competitive and innovative infotainment systems are more important now than ever before, and moving to AGL is a bold step for Toyota. If the open source collaboration succeeds, don’t be surprised if other car companies like Audi and Volvo jump ship from Apple and Alphabet.