BMW is the latest car manufacturer to announce plans to shift from its own infotainment system to Google’s Android Automotive.
In doing so, the German company will join Polestar, Volvo, Renault and others in ditching its own software for a system powered by Android.
Not to be confused with Android Auto, which runs on a smartphone connected to the car, as Apple’s CarPlay does with iPhones, Android Automotive is a fully-fledged infotainment system all of its own. Running on the car itself, and instead of using software developed from scratch by the vehicle manufacturer, Android Automotive includes native integration of Google Assistant, Google Maps, Spotify and the Play Store.
Unlike some manufacturers, BMW isn’t going all-in just yet. Instead, it plans to integrate Android Automotive with its upcoming BMW Operating System 8, and this will only happen with certain vehicles from March 2023 onwards.
Other models will still use BMW’s current system, which is built on Linux instead of Android. The company says its own OS 8 system will continue to receive over-the-air software updates after Android Automotive rolls out.
Stephen Durach, lead developer for the BMW group’s digital driving experience, said: “We are integrating the best aspects of all worlds – that could be our own in-house developments, Open Source or commercial software products, depending on what the specific solution looks like.”
Unlike Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Android Automotive runs on the car itself and integrates far more deeply than systems running on a connected smartphone. It can control the car’s climate system, for example, and show the remaining range of an electric car. This data is integrated with Google Maps to estimate how much charge will remain at your destination. Drivers can also check their range by asking the Google Assistant, which works just as it does on a smart speaker at home.
As large manufacturers like BMW adopt Android Automotive, pressure will mount on Apple and its next generation of CarPlay, which was revealed earlier in 2022 and will eventually see its own iPhone-like software integrate more deeply with car infotainment systems. But, for now at least, Google has the upper hand.