I’m lucky enough to use three Android devices on a day to day basis. One has Android 5.0.1 Lollipop and I’m waiting for other two. My HTC One M8 ought to receive the update early in the New Year and as for the Nexus 7 LTE, well that’s anybody’s guess! And I know I’m not alone, so it’s a little bit strange to be writing about the next version, currently called Android M. We’ve only a few rumors as to what the next version of Android M might include but now it appears Google are investigating automotive dashboards with the intention of building Android directly into cars, that is, without the help of a smartwatch or tablet for integration purposes. This could be seen as the next stage from Android Auto, which we’re expecting to see in 2015. Android Auto requires a smartphone for pairing purposes and a compatible car with a built-in display. The rumors we’re hearing is that Android M will be able to run on all sorts of devices from smartphones, tablets, wearables and… cars.
This is an interesting development. There’s a world of difference between a smartphone and an automobile and on first glance, it’s not entirely sure how Google can repeat the same success it’s hard with the smartphone market with the in-car dashboard market. Google and Android face considerable technical and business challenges; it’s been linked with Android Auto contracts for Hyundai, General Motors and Nissan, which is a start but this represents just three manufacturers and there are many more. Presumably the operating system would need to integrate various Google services with various car services, including cameras, sensors, instrumentation and an Internet connection. Would our current dasboards, consisting of analogue and digital displays, be replaced with an all-electronic dashboard that would need to be customised by the manufacturer? Could manufacturers allow users to use their own dashboards and don’t let me get started with rooting, hacking and custom firmware: we’ve already seen Google harden Android against hacking and surely this would need to be taken a stage deeper as I cannot see authorities liking the idea of rooting your car! Will we see Cyanogenmod dashboards, that bit better than the stock layout? And how will Google get over the need to boot the operating system very, very quickly when you start up the car? Perhaps it’ll rely on a proximity sensor?
I can certainly think of many advantages to using Android for certain services and functions in the car; a customizable dashboard would be nifty as would integrating Google Navigation, Play Music and similar. But I think it would require significant buy-in from the manufacturers. On the other hand, I also love Google’s moonshot projects and this one may well be closer than it seems!