Today, the Google I/O 2016 Developer Conference opened. We've seen a large number of stories from the keynote speech and onwards, covering many aspects of Google's operating system platforms. Although the new Daydream platform and a significant update to Android Wear have taken some of the limelight, Android Auto has not been left out in the cold. Google has announced a couple of updates to Android Auto, these being how the company will enable a Wi-Fi connection from the smartphone to control the device and how it will also be enabling the "OK Google" hotword to allow drivers a complete hands-free interface.
In addition to these platform announcements, American semiconductor company, Qualcomm, has announced it is working with Google to provide the control chips behind the Android Auto software by using two varieties of the Snapdragon chipset. Qualcomm currently has two Snapdragon System-on-Chips designed for the automobile market: the 602A and 820A units. Of these two chipsets, the lower-end Snapdragon 602A is based on the aging Snapdragon 600 family of chipsets and was introduced in early 2014. This chipset is similar to the model found in the Nexus 4 and 2013 Nexus 7 smartphone and tablet respectively. This contains a quad-core, 32-bit, 1.5 GHz chipset paired up with the Adreno 320 GPU.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 820A is based on the Snapdragon 820, Qualcomm's flagship chipset that sees service in the Samsung Galaxy S7, LG G5 and HTC 10, to name three 2016 flagship devices. This quad-core, 64-bit processor is arranged in a big.LITTLE architecture and benefits from machine learning and a powerful GPU. It's a more capable chipset compared with the Snapdragon 602A but is presumably a more expensive option. Google's concept car functions as demonstrated at the Google I/O conference are running on hardware based around the Snapdragon 820A, but depending on the level of sophistication required by Android Auto partner manufacturers, it may well be that the 602A is a more suitable chip. This is not the first time Google and Qualcomm have combined forces – we've seen how Google is supporting Qualcomm's venture into the server chip market with a promise to buy a number of Qualcomm's chips should they reach certain performance metrics. Unfortunately, at this juncture, we've no word as and when Qualcomm-powered Android Auto devices will be made available or what manufacturers will be using them first.