In a significant coup for Google owner Alphabet, the company has inked a global multi-year agreement to equip Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi vehicles with “intelligent infotainment systems” running on Android.
Car makers have thus-far been reluctant to let major tech companies like Google into their dashboards, but the news comes the same day that Audi said its new electric E-tron SUV will integrate Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant.
The tie-up comes amid ongoing rollout of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s “Intelligent Cloud”, which will offer “a platform to integrate data management, infotainment systems and to facilitate over-the- air upgrades and remote diagnostics.”
The Alliance, which sold 10.6 million vehicles in 200 countries in 2017, said the tie-up will improve integration of Google’s maps, app store and voice-activated assistant. The new interface will debut in 2021 and will be compatible with devices running other operating systems, such as Apple iOS. It did not disclose terms of the deal.
Audi, meanwhile, showcasing the new $74,800 e-tron SUV at an event in San Francisco, said it will bring Alexa to more cars later this year. Amazon recently released a new Alexa Auto Software Development Kit that allows developers to programme calling, media streaming, navigation and search into car systems, via voice command.
Connected Vehicles: Deal Will Mean “Open and Secure Ecosystem of Android Apps Engineered for Vehicles”
Kal Mos, Global VP of Alliance Connected Vehicles at Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, said in a release posted Tuesday: “With the integration of the Android platform into our infotainment systems, we are adding a new level of intelligence to our connected vehicles.”
He added: “In the future, the Google Assistant, which employs Google’s leading AI technology, can become the main way customers interact with their vehicles, hands-free. With Google Maps and the Google Assistant embedded in Alliance infotainment systems, our customers will have some of the most advanced AI based applications at their fingertips. And with in-vehicle access to the Google Play Store, our customers will enjoy an open and secure ecosystem of Android apps engineered for vehicles.”
Hiroshi Lockheimer, Senior Vice President of Platforms & Ecosystems at Google, added: “Google and Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi share a common vision of delivering an intelligent, safe and seamless in-car experience with apps and services that are familiar, upgradable and connected. We’re thrilled to partner with Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi to bring the Google Assistant, Google Maps, and other popular apps via the Play Store and Android to drivers and passengers around the world.”
A recent report by Research and Markets noted that: “In terms of applications, the market is bifurcated into navigation, infotainment, and telematics, where navigation stood as the largest application area of connected cars. Navigation is also expected to be the fastest growing application of connected cars in the years to come.”
IHS Markit analyst Colin Bird-Martinez told Computer Business Review: “We’re seeing a definite move away from Microsoft, QMX and the smaller players to these better known names. I’ve updated my guidance on Android Automotive deployment by one million to reach 12 million vehicles by 2024. We see this playing well in the US and Western Europe; consumers like Android, they’re familiar with Play Store and typically don’t rate existing infotainment systems and apps highly.”
He added: “It is going to garner a mixed response though: Google’s version of Android can be very power consuming, which will need more expensive hardware; a great ecosystem of developers is great for apps, but less good for security. And many automakers want to monetise their own in-car data; their are a lot of issues to be ironed out regarding the emerging world of in-car advertising, etc.”