LAS VEGAS--Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), as had been rumored, launched a new partnership with a number of automakers to bring its Android mobile operating systems into connected cars. The alliance, announced as the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show is getting under way here, also serves as a counterbalance to a similar effort Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) launched to bring its iOS platform to car dashboards.
The Google announcement also comes amid a bevy of others related to the connected car, highlighting how much CES is turning into a auto show. Platform companies, car makers and chipset vendors are all trying to get a piece of the connected car market, which analysts expect to boom in the next few years.
Google's partnership, called the Open Automotive Alliance, mirrors the company's Open Handset Alliance for Android. The initial OAA members include Audi, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and chipmaker Nvidia. The companies said they are committed to bringing the Android platform to cars starting in 2014, and that they will use an open development model and common platform to innovate faster.
In a press release, the OAA members said that timing from each automaker will vary, but consumers can expect to see the first cars with Android integration by the end of this year. The OAA said it invites other automotive technology companies to join.
In a company blog post, Patrick Brady, Google's director of Android engineering, noted that millions of people already bring Android phones and tablets into their cars, but do not yet enjoy a driving-optimized experience.
"Together with our OAA partners, we're working to enable new forms of integration with Android devices, and adapting Android for the car to make driving safer, easier and more enjoyable for everyone," he wrote. "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 in new, exciting and safe ways."
IHS Research has forecasted that the portion of consumer automobiles sold with OEM-installed, cellular-connected systems will grow from just under 9 percent in 2012 to nearly 33 percent in 2017. However, it remains unclear what the business models will be between carriers, automakers and platform companies, or how quickly consumers will take to such models.
Interestingly, both Honda and Hyundai are also part of Apple's rival iOS in the Car partnership. Apple notes on its website that if a users' vehicle is equipped with iOS in the Car, they can connect their iPhone 5 or later and interact with it using the car's built-in display and controls or Apple's Siri Eyes Free, a voice control mode for the phone. The iOS in the Car service lets users make phone calls, access music, send and receive messages, get directions and more. Apple has signed up Ferrari, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Chevrolet, Infinity, Kia, Hyundai, Volvo, Opel, Jaguar Land Rover and Acura to put iOS in the Car into their vehicles by 2014, according to GigaOM.
Other players also made waves in the connected car market early at CES this year. GM announced its first LTE-enabled vehicles, which it will begin selling this summer. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), which is powering the LTE network for GM's OnStar service, said it will let customers add LTE-enabled vehicles to their Mobile Share plans as an additional device, similar to a tablet or smartphone.
Meanwhile, Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) announced a new chipset in its Snapdragon line specifically designed for automotive applications. The processor supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and LTE, as well as wireless hotspot functionality with support for up to eight simultaneous device connections, content streaming from the head unit to multiple devices with Miracast, MirrorLink 1.2 and AllJoyn. Interestingly, the new chip supports both Android and BlackBerry's (NASDAQ:BBRY) QNX systems.
Another chip maker, Nvidia, which is part of Google's new OAA, used its press conference here Sunday night to highlight its own push into cars. Nvidia unveiled the Tegra K1 VCM (vehicle computing module), which the company said will bring the functionality of its new high-powered chip to cars. Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsuan Huang said the technology will improve advanced driver assistance with pedestrian detection and blind spot monitoring. According to CNET, he also mentioned what he called "Project Mercury," a new technology that will let industrial designers build a digital dashboard.
"We happen to believe that the car will be your most important mobile computer," Huang said. According to Re/code, he also said that the company is already in 4.5 million cars, but additional design wins will push Nvidia into more than 20 makes of cars and more than 100 models.
- see this Open Automotive Alliance site
- see this Google blog post
- see this The Verge article
- see this GigaOM article
- see this Re/code article
- see this Qualcomm release
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this separate Re/code article
- see this CNET article
- see this Bloomberg article
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