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Author Topic: CES 2013: Among The Hot Trends Cars That 'Run' On Android  (Read 632 times)
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« on: January 04, 2013, 01:22:41 AM »

There’s not much in common between a car and a smartphone at first glance. You sit in one, you put the other in your pocket.

Yet more carmakers are starting to see important similarities between the two, and they’re putting more money into the wireless talents of these machines that are essentially becoming “mobile devices” that move at speed

At CES 2013 next week, more than 100 technology companies will present services related to “smart cars.” And at least half a dozen carmakers like Ford, General Motors and Hyundai, will exhibit at the show, the world’s largest devoted to technology and gadgetry that’s held every year in Las Vegas.

Among the trends they are embracing: self-driving technology, parking guidance and better entertainment and information systems.

Apps like Waze might feature decent GPS navigation services on your smartphone, but carmakers want to integrate their own software services to get an edge on competitors when you’re peeking through the windows of new cars on the lot.

These services must typically run off an operating system to connect to web protocols and provide GPS capabilities. But which operating system? The answer is one that some carmakers are keeping a secret, both in terms of what they’re running on now, and what they have in the works.

Most carmakers, like BMW and Audi, use their own proprietary software platforms like Audi’s MMI, which integrates Google Earth imagery and Google Maps data for its A3 model. Others like Ford use in-car systems that run off Microsoft‘s “Windows Embedded Automotive” operating system.

But a few have also been tinkering with open-source platforms like Tizen (a collaboration between Samsung and Intel) Linux, GENIVI, and Android.

“You would never recognize it, but… some of these companies have been using the kernel of Android to power their infotainment systems and in-vehicle systems [navigation, video, audio, and controller operating system],” said Thomas Stuermer of Accenture’s electronics and high-tech group. Stuermer didn’t want to name which carmakers were doing so, and another source in automotive software also shied away from naming names.

A few have been open about their use of Android, though. The infotainment system for Renault’s new Clio features the Android-based R-Link, while Saab has also used Android for its infotainment system. Intel subsidiary Wind River meanwhile teamed up with stereo maker Clarion in 2011 to develop Android-based car infotainment systems, competing with Hong Kong-based Ca-Fi which does the same. The Roewe 350 from China was billed as the first car to run on Android (version 2.1) when it was launched by China’s SAIC Motor in 2010 at the Beijing Motor Show.

The choice of operating system for cars is becoming more important to manufacturers as consumers become more fickle and knowledgeable, and the resulting products more competitive. “The winning [infotainment] system will have a robust, safe and flexible operating system,” said Mark Fitzgerald in a report on the rise of automotive software platforms for Strategy Analytics.

Of course, Android in a car won’t look so familiar to those who use Android on a smartphone. Since the platform is open source, carmakers will more-often-than-not move to customize it in the same way Amazon customized (or “forked,” in tech parlance) Android for the Kindle’s operating system.

Carmakers are also, apparently, being cautious about aligning themselves with mobile ecosystems like Android, lest they put people off. They’d “start to run the risk of becoming a disincentive to a certain kind of customer to buy their product,” says Stuermer. One reasons perhaps why some would rather keep such details quiet.


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