Volvo partners Google to develop Android for cars

Car manufacturer and web giant are jointly developing an Android-based in-car infotainment system

Volvo Cars has partnered with tech giant Google to develop and build an Android-based in-vehicle infotainment and connectivity system.

“We have a team at Volvo and a team at Google working together to develop the embedded version of Android,” said Ödgärd Andersson, vice-president of electrics and electronics at Volvo. “It started off with a proof of concept and we are now making it into a commercial product.”

Unlike Google’s current automotive offering, Android Auto, which enables users to connect their phones to the in-car system and access apps while behind the wheel, the new infotainment system will be fully powered by Android.

This means Volvo drivers will have access to a large number of Android apps and services developed by Google, by Volvo in-house and by third-party developers. Core services include Google Maps navigation, Spotify music streaming and Google Assistant, and Android will also control basic car functions such as air-conditioning, electric windows and seat configurations.

This is the search giant’s first step towards an operating system for cars. It has a similar partnership with Audi.

Although the system is built on Android, its interface will be customised with Volvo’s existing infotainment system.

“That has been one of the interesting features of the Android OS, that it enables us to integrate Android into the customer experience we have,” said Andersson. “It means we will keep some parts and replace some parts in our current system.”

Andersson did not comment on any alternative approaches considered by Volvo, but she emphasised that Google’s open source approach and the ecosystem around Android were significant factors in the car maker’s decision. For Volvo, the collaboration is also a way to speed up content development and offer more personalised options for its customers.

The partnership will not exclude iOS users either, as Volvo will continue support for Apple’s smartphone technology CarPlay.

Volvo and Audi showcased their Android-based in-car concepts at the Google I/O developer conference in May. Volvo expects to launch the infotainment system on new car models within the next two years.

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