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Google, car companies to bring Android to cars

The Open Automotive Alliance wants to bridge the gap between mobile devices and cars

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Google has teamed up with several auto manufacturers on Monday with the goal of bringing Android to cars by the end of this year.

To achieve this, Google, together with Audi, General Motors (GM), Honda, Hyundai and processor chip company Nvidia, launched the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA).

The OAA wants to accelerate auto innovation with an approach that offers openness, customization and scale, the companies said in a news release.

"Putting Android in the car will bring drivers apps and services they already know and love, while enabling automakers to more easily deliver cutting-edge technology to their customers. And it will create new opportunities for developers to extend the variety and depth of the Android app ecosystem," Patrick Brady, director of Android engineering said in a blog post.

The alliance is also developing new Android platform features that will enable the car to become a connected Android device, they said, adding that more details about that will follow soon.

With Android integrated into their cars, drivers should be able to use mobile services without disrupting their focus on the road, they said. And because Android is an existing and familiar platform for developers, they will be able to deliver a powerful experience for users, they said.

By opting for Android, automakers will be able to use a platform that is already being used by millions to deliver a familiar and consistent experience to their customers, the companies added.

Some car manufacturers already use Android. Kia for instance showed an Android-based infotainment system during the 2013 New York International Auto Show last April, claiming to be the first to use such a system in its cars.

The members of the Open Automotive Alliance invited others to join them to work build a common platform and bring Android to the road. The companies expect the first alliance cars with Android integration to appear by the end of this year.

Other tech companies like Apple and Microsoft are also putting emphasis on the integration of mobile devices and cars. Apple's CEO Tim Cook for instance has called such an integration very important, naming it a key focus for Apple.

At its last World Wide Developer Conference, Apple introduced "iOS in the Car," an interface for cars that allows owners of the iPhone 5 or newer devices to make calls, access music, get directions and send and receive messages using the car's display and controls.  

While Apple's website still lists iOS in the Car as "coming soon," Honda announced in November that it started providing one of its features, Siri Eyes Free, in some new Acura and Accord models. Siri Eyes Free allows iPhone users to perform certain tasks with voice commands.

Microsoft has developed a similar technology with Fiat Auto called Blue&Me that allows drivers to pair their phones with Fiat, Alpha Romeo and Lancia cars via Bluetooth. The platform let's users make hands free telephone calls, listen to text messages and play music files without the need to take hands of the wheel. Blue&Me also offers navigation and a program that helps to optimize fuel consumption, among other options.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com



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