An Android car might not be as far off as you think. If this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was any indication, we could be buying cars running entirely on Google’s mighty mobile OS before the end of the decade. Surprised? Don’t be. The automobile and the smartphone are two very different technologies with two very different uses, but it makes perfect sense for these two innovations to merge.
While it’s certainly true that elaborate in-car information and entertainment systems are becoming more widespread, we’ve yet to see a car that’s fully controlled by a mobile OS like Android. That said, car manufacturers are already using Android’s source kernel to find new ways to sync your smartphone and your dashboard. With all this tinkering and customization, it’s only a matter of time before your Android device and your steering column are intertwined.
With the current crop of Android “infotainment” systems limited to in-dash navigation and general amusement, what other car components will this tech be found in down the road? Some believe literally every nut and bolt can be linked through your mobile device. Imagine integration so tight, the Android OS will know when your tire pressure is low and your oil needs to be changed. It’ll even be able to tell you in layman’s terms why your check engine light is flashing.
Android’s openness with their source code makes them a perfect fit for this kind of partnership. It’s a flexible, robust platform that can be molded to fit the different tastes of car manufacturers. All that’s needed are developers willing to create innovative apps that tie the platform and car together via relevant and useful software. That’s why Ford is pushing an open Android API to spur the development of Android-powered cars.
Developers can now use this new SDK to enable communication between their app and Ford’s cars. Before the announcement, access to the AppLink API — available in more than 1 million vehicles — was only offered to a select few. Today, a developer will just need to submit an app to Ford’s engineering team for review.
Still think an Android car is a little far fetched? Go to your local Toys R Us and see for yourself. “Ferraris” are already being controlled with smartphones. It’s only a matter of time before we take that tech from small-scale RC cars to full-size coupes and SUVs.