Google starts conquering the car dashboard with Volvo
Car manufacturers are asking Google to develop the navigation and infotainment system in their cars. Smartphones, being always connected and up-to-date, are often better at those things than in-car systems. So manufacturers are giving in, and Google seizes power in the car.
Volvo will be the first to introduce a Google operating system in the new electric Volvo XC40 Recharge next year. Around the same time, Volvo subsidiary Polestar will join forces with Google.
General Motors and the cooperating car manufacturers Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi will also take their chances. From 2021, they will be using Google’s Android as the operating system for the infotainment in their cars.
According to Lex Kerssemakers, the Dutch CEO of Volvo Cars, this is inevitable. “As a car manufacturer, you may want to develop your own infotainment systems, but you are constantly lagging.”
According to Kerssemakers, Google Android is simply better. “The maps are often updated, it’s all easy to use, and Google regularly adds new features.” Kerssemakers says there were also discussions with Apple, but the company is not interested in introducing its operating system in cars.
Google takes over
In many new cars, you can already use some Apple and Google Android services. But the screen in the car only mirrors the screen of your smartphone. Soon, Google will take over the complete operating system in the car. This allows it to control certain functions of the car itself, like climate control.
“We give you the same experience in the car as you are used to from your smartphone. But then adapted for safe use while driving,” says Henrik Green, chief technology officer at Volvo Cars. The maps and road information from Google Maps are also used for the car’s driving assistance systems.
An interesting side effect is that Google also takes over the voice control in the car. Think of voice commands for the temperature in the car, a navigation destination, your favorite Spotify playlist, or sending messages via WhatsApp. You can even communicate from the car with the smart devices at home.
According to Haris Ramic, Google’s Android Automotive product manager, the automotive industry is no stranger to his company. BMW already introduced the web browser in its cars at the beginning of this century. Google’s Points of Interest are used in BMW and Audi systems for several years now.
Taking over the complete operating systems is more complicated than expected. Ramic: “I thought: we already have our Android operating system, and now we just put it in a car. But soon we discovered that a car is much more complicated than a smartphone or tablet. We had to develop all kinds of new support systems.
Thinking from the user’s point of view was the starting point. Ramic: “Customers must be able to use our services anywhere. Now they sometimes just do it with their phone in their hands. That’s not safe. That’s why it’s so important that we integrate those services into the car in a safe way.”
The use of Google services will soon work seamlessly. At home, you Google a restaurant and book a table. Google automatically transfers the data to the navigation system in your car. The system also helps you to find a parking space and get to the restaurant on foot.
Volvo and Google promise privacy is not at risk, although currently, the situation is not very clear with most manufacturers. The user must always first choose which data he wants to share. They can block certain personal preferences or locations from being recorded.
Some risk remains the vulnerability of an online system. Also, if the car has a bad or no internet connection, some functions might not work properly or not at all. Until now, car manufacturers have always stored their navigation maps in the car, making them available offline.
“All of our features will work offline,” says Ramic. “Maybe you can’t play a game if you don’t have a connection. But we’re storing some of the navigation maps. We look at the region in which the car usually travels, or at least record its immediate surroundings each time. In case things go wrong.”