Google spent much of the I/O 2017 keynote talking about machine learning. In fact, we heard the phrase “AI first” as a description of Google’s current plans. You probably have a little sliver of Google’s AI capabilities in your pocket right now—Google Assistant. There’s one place in particular Google really wants Assistant to live, and that’s in your car.
Voice commands in general are extremely well-suited to the car, so it should come as no surprise that Google had two Assistant-infused “Android Automotive” demos on-hand at I/O—one from Volvo (above) and another from Audi. It’s more clear now than ever that Google wants to be the smart interface for your car, and it plans to do it with Assistant.
Your car with Android
The Android Automotive project (just an internal name for now) was rumored in 2016, and the first demo of such a system was showcased at CES early this year. This is distinct from Android Auto, which Google released alongside Lollipop. However, it took several months before the first aftermarket head units and new cars arrived with support for the platform. Progress on Auto has been slow ever since. It does barely anything now that it couldn’t do at launch. Perhaps that’s because Google is currently more interested in making Android the car’s operating system.
With Android Auto, your phone simply projects an interface to the car’s display, but Android Automotive is a car that actually runs Android as its infotainment system. There have been cars running Android before—many Honda and Hyundai vehicles still do, actually. They’re very old builds that are almost completely unrecognizable as Android, though. By working with automakers, Google can make the interface more modern and get its services embedded in the car. The two Android Automotive concepts being demoed at I/O were surprisingly full-featured. Check out our video from