Android to soon power infotainment systems

Android powers much of the world's smartphones and now Google has plans to take over the car biz

Google has figured out a clever way to put YouTube inside your car.

The company has partnered with Nvidia and carmakers General Motors, Audi, Honda and Hyundai to form the Open Auto Alliance that will integrate the Android operating system into cars starting this year.

Announcement was made at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The move is a significant one for Android, given that its mobile operating system powers a majority of the world’s smartphones but has yet to really penetrate the car market, with the exception of Google Maps.

Google did not disclose which apps will make it onto the infotainment screens of new vehicles, but they will likely be driver-friendly versions of Gmail and other apps found on mobile devices the way Facebook and Twitter have found their way into cars.

The move makes sense since cars are just another mobile device. Auto makers have found that infotainment screens have become a larger factor in whether to buy a car for consumers and have developed the latest displays to resemble app-filled smartphones. General Motors, the world’s largest car company, took that strategy when it introduced its CUE system for Cadillac (see above).

Pairing up with Android also is a good move for car companies considering it will be Android that will do the heavy lifting of updating the system when needed, allowing automakers to focus on designing and building vehicles.

With newer cars now also featuring high-speed Internet connections, it’s only a matter of time before YouTube will also be available to stream videos.

Carmakers already enable video to be viewed inside vehicles, but only when they’re in park. But with Internet access, video can also be viewed on a mobile device while driving. Through Android’s in-car system, YouTube could eventually be available to back-seat passengers.

Whether passengers actually need access to YouTube in vehicles isn’t the point. Should it happen, Google would gain a new platform through which it can stream ads, sell content and make more revenue.

“The OAA is dedicated to a common platform that will drive innovation, and make technology in the car safer and more intuitive for everyone,” the group said in a statement, with its open development model and common platform allowing automakers to more easily bring cutting-edge technology to their drivers, and create new opportunities for developers to deliver powerful experiences for drivers and passengers in a safe and scalable way.

“Our goal is to build an experience that helps drivers get what they’re looking for without disrupting their focus on the road,” the OAA added.

Google isn’t alone. Apple also is developing an expanded in-car offering that would power infotainment systems in part through its iOS system.

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