Tencent Technologies News, Jan. 26, according to foreign media reports, in the past few years, Google has been quietly developing Android-based operating systems for cars that do not need to use smartphones. This system is based on Android P, which is much more advanced than the current version of Android Auto, which only projects the mobile phone interface to the car's on-board information entertainment device screen. Google's new system is also considered to be a more powerful solution than many other information and entertainment systems built on old Android.
However, we are about to become more familiar with the new Android experience. Google has agreed with Volvo and Audi to launch these systems in 2020. In the past year, we have seen many details of them. This new Android-based system will provide benefits from modern Android Auto, such as access to the car certification application ecosystem in the Google Play online store.
Google's new system will go into the system-level operation of the car, which means you can order Google Assistant to turn on the heater, turn off the seat heater, and even book maintenance bookings. The system can also be customized to suit the different styles of car manufacturers, giving them more control than planned Android Auto (or Apple CarPlay). This opens up a variety of interesting new problems for the future of vehicle-based information entertainment system. Google has been involved in the platform war in the past. Is this a continuation of that war? How much pain do we have to endure? How does Google view these different versions of Android in cars?
The following is an interview summary:
There are several other similar things. Wireless networks make us very excited. Obviously, it has been launched in the aftermarket today, but we are glad to be able to apply this technology to automobile manufacturers'embedded systems in the near future. Then we're going to have a broader UI update that we showed at last year's Google I/O Developers Conference, which takes advantage of the larger screens we see in cars today.
Last year, we showed it on the Range Rover Velar with an ultra-wide screen, so now we can show you a complete view on Google Maps and turn around in turn. In addition, it displays any content being played on YouTube music or Spotify and allows you to control it without switching between them. There are other things that we are improving the UI of the system to really integrate it into the car environment better and reuse different forms and screens.
O'Caine: Is there any challenge? For technology enthusiasts, it's a good thing to see these car manufacturers roll out larger screens, and we're no longer making resistive touch screens. Technology catches up. Whether users really like having a huge screen in their car remains to be seen. But does this pose a challenge to all these formal factors, or have you solved the problem well by now?
Brady: The size, direction and shape of the screen are complex problems. But it's relative. You've definitely used touch pads and rotary controllers. There are so many different ways of input, so it's definitely a challenge. You know, we have motorcycle manufacturers who want to carry Android Auto, and they will only drive on D-Pad. We are also negotiating with Honda and are committed to reaching an agreement.
So the system is complex. I think the good news is that it encourages us to create simpler systems. Therefore, in the first six months of 2019, we will introduce some simplified systems, which I think will help it adapt to different screen shapes and sizes and different input methods. But ultimately, I think it will make it more intuitive and useful for users. So we're really excited.
The projection solution provided by Android Auto is a classic project. Another thing we see is that all automakers, such as Volvo, Renault-Nissan and many others, are discussing installing Android in their cars as their built-in information and entertainment systems. As they are trying to replace all mechanical knobs and dials with digital interfaces, software is clearly becoming more important.
The screen we see is getting bigger and bigger. We see that your HVAC control, FM radio control and everything else are moving to the screen controlled by software, which needs a platform to implement. They also saw consumer demand for products such as CarPlay and Android Auto, and automakers wanted to enable the digital ecosystem in their embedded products in their information entertainment systems.
CarPlay and Android Auto are great because they allow you to bring your digital ecosystem into your car. As a consumer, it does show you two worlds where you need to deal with both native systems and smartphones. This is not necessarily what consumers want, but it is a way to achieve these goals. What we're really excited about is that with Android embedded products on board, we can now create an independent hybrid system that includes Spotify, HVAC control, backup cameras, Google Maps or Waze, all of which are integrated into one system. It takes advantage of the entire digital surface in the car. We think we'll be able to find a balance that feels like it's naturally integrated into the car.
O'Caine: All? Not just native Android Auto?
Brady: Android is a complete system. We have partners, such as Honda and General Motors, whose cars used to use Android. But they had to adjust the system so that they could use their own cars. We spent a lot of time and investment in turning Android into a package solution for cars, so that it has our customers.
Everything needed, such as vehicle subsystem control and the like. At the same time, we also provide Android Auto support applications. We have thousands of applications in Android Auto today, including media, messaging, etc. They will run seamlessly on these native systems. We now have car manufacturers that use this approach.
O'Caine: I just want to make sure that Volvo's native, embedded Android Auto system is different from the Android bifurcation-based on-board system.
Brady: You know, the main difference is that you have an application ecosystem. This is a big event. And I think you'll see a more modern system because, as I said, we've added features to Android to make it more car-friendly. And, you know, when Android Auto Projected runs on your smartphone and compares it to the native system running in the car, you'll find that now we can start combining ADAS with Google Maps, so that they have a shared vision. You can better support multiple screens and modern cars, cluster support, etc. I'm very excited about it. I think it's going to be a big leap forward.
O'Caine: Do you think that as you continue to make progress, those information entertainment systems based on Android bifurcated versions will disappear? Or do you think they will be around for a while?
Brady: I think they'll change some baseline. It's not necessarily their choice at the time. Four or five years ago, when they chose Android, such as General Motors or Honda, Google did not make Android an embedded system. So they have to make all the changes themselves, and their only real choice is to develop a bifurcated version. Now, I think it's a very clear choice. They're now available, open source, free, and feature-rich systems.
O'Caine: Especially around the Tesla Model 3, people have been speculating about how many control schemes we want to put behind the touch screen to achieve the function of the car relative to physical control.
Brady: It can be said that in some cases, they go a little too far!
O'Caine: I think so too. I haven't spent enough time making sure. But that's my intuition. When you turn on the wiper, it feels a little strange. But does Google have a preference? I think it's obvious that you need to build the ability to take advantage of all these functions. But do you care about these two ways?
O'Caine: Or you have a problem activating it. It's like a double light switch.
O'Caine: With Volvo's demonstrations over the past year, I think we've finally seen what you're talking about. But it still looks like Sensus, and anyone who has used Volvo's information entertainment system will feel very familiar with it. However, do you have these extra abilities that will let you know how they work together?
Brady: That's right. To be honest, we also demonstrated the Audi Q8 concept car running Android. The coolest thing for us is that Spotify doesn't have to change their application at all, they can install it directly on the car. It appears on Audi and looks like Audi's unique style. It appears on Volvo and looks like it was designed specifically for Sensus. We
Hope to show the industry and consumers that you can create this real differentiation. We believe that this is not only what the automobile manufacturers want, but also what the consumers want. As I said, it feels natural in that environment. But it still keeps things familiar, especially for developers, so it's a comprehensive experience. You control all the applications.
O'Caine: You briefly mentioned the idea of knowing how drivers use it and possibly responding to it. Is that what you want to push?
Brady: Yes, I don't think that's unique to our efforts in automobiles. With Google Assistant and our ongoing efforts, we are creating a more personalized experience that will be more helpful to us. So, again, in the car, we want to do the same thing. What we've done in Android Auto today is that if you often drive your daughter to school on Fridays, it should know that, right?
So when I get on the bus, it will automatically prompt the route. But you need to do it in a privacy-sensitive way, right? If I lend my car to someone else, I don't necessarily want them to see it. Especially in cars that are very different from mobile phones and other devices, cars are essentially shared devices. So we're really thinking about this experience and how you can balance highly personalized experiences with user privacy to ensure that these personal information is protected.
Brady: You don't have a muscle memory, do you? Yeah, so it's a balance. We tried to create a location for it on the platform. For example, in today's Android, you can customize your home screen, which is already predictable. I click on something and I know the exact location of these applications. When I slide up, it tries to predict what I'm going to click on, and it makes suggestions for action.
We try to find places in the UI where predictions can be introduced without converting the entire UI into predictions-based ones, because this can completely damage muscle memory and so on. So it's a balance. In the automotive industry, I don't think what we do is different from what we do on mobile phones, because it's a common problem.
O'Caine: When you use embedded Android in your car, can we expect third-party/aftermarket manufacturers to see that too? Eventually, you can put a system in your car, not only compatible with Android Auto, but also running native Android Auto?
Brady: Yes, absolutely.
O'Caine: Is this what you've begun to study? Or do you insist on starting with the manufacturer?
Brady: In most cases, we start with manufacturers for many reasons. One of the main benefits of building it into a car is that you can be deeply integrated with all the advanced systems in a new car. And those after-sales market systems, only fixed things can be integrated into the system. Therefore, to really expand the platform and take advantage of all the advantages of deep integration, you need to work with automobile manufacturers.
O'Caine: A few years ago, we started seeing Android Auto and CarPlay enter the car platform. At that time, there were many concerns, such as whether automobile manufacturers would be willing to accept it? Some manufacturers are very conservative, but most manufacturers'problems have been solved. Now we're talking about native systems. Are we ready for another type of platform warfare? We don't know if Apple wants to do the same thing, but we have Automotive Grade Linux, and LG is testing webOS. These give the impression that the same competition will start in the car?
Brady: It's hard to say. We found it difficult to create a platform. Anyone can create an operating system, but it's hard to create a platform that is relevant to and concerned by developers. Therefore, if you want to build something with connection services, you need the support of developers. And developers tend to favor having the highest number of platforms, because that's where they get users, right? We found this, even though we're launching Android Automotive, we need to get developers thinking about developing automotive applications, not just smartphone applications.
The car market is much smaller than the mobile phone market, and we know how difficult it is to start a new ecosystem. So, I don't know if we will see a lot of platforms emerge and compete. But it is certain that users will have many choices. You mentioned Automotive Grade Linux. I think you will see this industry move towards an open source, more modern platform, because automakers want to bring more internal software and get more software ownership. I think that's a good thing. They are investing more in software, because software will become more important in future automobiles.
Another cool thing is that when we develop CarPlay or Android Auto, it's an integrated system. Now, we are working with car manufacturers on the same system. So when we work with Volvo and Polstar, we will work with them to create the best possible experience. We used Android Auto to some extent, just like Apple did to CarPlay, but it's not exactly the same. After all, you're not a team building the same system together.
O'Caine: When you start talking to these automakers, how do you convince them when you are close to reaching a consensus but not yet reaching the final goal?
Brady: It's quite interesting. Often, we sit down with car manufacturers and they show us their vision for future interconnected cars, and we sell them our vision for cars. It's the same thing. I think what people want is that you never feel the need to pick up a cell phone. But you want to be able to get into a car that allows your digital life to flow seamlessly, and use all the digital technology in the car to feel that it is naturally integrated, that everything is there and ready for you. You don't need to plug in or log in. It's right there. When you leave, it will follow you. When you use it, it gets better. This is largely a shared vision.
So where do we start and how do we implement it? With Android, our positioning is that we are building this platform and giving it away for free, because we want to create, as we do on mobile phones, and we want to accelerate innovation in this area so that everyone can more easily focus on innovation through interconnection services than on integration. At that time, on smartphones, we had hundreds of different versions of Google Maps for different mobile platforms. As you can imagine, it's quite difficult to innovate there.
O'Caine: Are these exclusive partnerships?
Brady: Not really.
O'Caine: So if Volvo feels that other solutions might be better suited to its particular model, they can do that, while others still use Android Auto?
Brady: Yes. However, in general, unlike smartphones, cars may be able to afford smartphones. As a device manufacturer, there are different mobile phones running different systems. I think it's all like going back to the early HTC. They have HTC Touch or other products running Windows, they have a lot of these products, and they have their own Android product line. Car manufacturers usually don't do this because the investment in these information and entertainment platforms is so high that making multiple versions of platforms only increases their costs, R&D, time to market and maintenance costs, so they tend to put everything on the same platform. In short, however, these contracts are not exclusive.
Brady: That's right.
O'Caine: Is there such openness to other competitors'services, whether it's Amazon Alexa or something like that? Are you committed to keeping the platform open?
Brady: Yes, of course. Because when people go to buy Volvo, we don't know what services they have at home. Again, their vision is not to bring Google's digital life into the car, but to bring your digital life into the car. So, like today's Android phones, Facebook, and so on, whatever other services they have, they are crucial as an important part of your platform experience. In my opinion, the main challenge in automobiles is how to ensure that these applications are designed specifically for automobiles and that they are safe to use in automobiles. So I don't think it will be as open as we insist on on smartphones, because it will only have higher standards. But we want it to be as open as possible.
O'Caine: Yes, because then you'll start thinking about security, not just the security of hackers, but the stability of cars and the safety of cars.
Brady: Exactly right.
O'Caine: At a very high level, when you talk about these things with manufacturers like Volvo, what do you talk about? With regard to ensuring what you have, it will provide stability and safety features for your car.
Brady: We had a lot of discussions with automakers about how to ensure the safety of platforms and ecosystems. All applications that have been uploaded to Play Store for Automotive have undergone extensive review to ensure that we do not introduce anything potentially harmful. So we have made it clear in advance. But it also depends to a large extent on how we design the experience. So, you know, in today's cars, media applications don't control every pixel on the screen. They filled in the template we provided. We give them as much control as possible.
But you can more or less rebuild their application, and you can implement it in a way that fits the screen size and input controls. This reduces the complexity of their development, but also manages the distraction and safety of drivers, and things like that, because we're running it on slender boxes. So what I want to say is that we intentionally design this system from scratch to manage it.
Brady: Yes. I mean, we want them to do that. I think all automakers do that. This is not even the focus of the discussion. All automakers are turning to building connections, and they are turning to wireless software updates. That's what consumers want, and I think that's what automakers want. Instead of letting everyone turn to dealers, they can now promote the repair of problems. So that's the trend, that's the direction of things. We like it because it means that we want to accelerate the pace of innovation. Therefore, it not only fixes errors and things like that, or security issues, but also provides new functionality.
We are working with our closest partners, such as Volvo and Renault-Nissan, to ensure that even if they install the original system on Android P, they can quickly upgrade to Android Q and Android R, keep up-to-date, and push updates to users through the air.
O'Caine: How would you like these updates to proceed? If someone buys a car with a native Android system and the car manufacturer wants to push updates, will that be done by Google?
Brady: That depends. Just like on mobile phones, we have our own air update service, deploying updates through Google's global data center network. Some partners use it, while others use their own services. Even in the mobile industry, people have different choices.
O'Caine: With the advent of digital automotive and information entertainment systems, we are beginning to hear that service is a potential new revenue model for these automobile manufacturers. Have you talked to these car companies about this?
Brady: Oh, of course, yes. You see them trying different things. I think, generally speaking, owning an Internet car is a huge opportunity for them to do different things. You see automakers entering insurance, fleet management, in-car distribution and so on. Amazon can deliver parcels to your car because it can unlock them remotely, and so on. So it must be interesting. You know where we can do it, we try to get them to do it, but we see what will satisfy consumers and what will really succeed.
O'Caine: Will you be engaged in income distribution, or will you not do it because you are a platform?
Brady: We're focusing on platforms and Google services, and so on. Many of them, especially in the area of shared mobile, I think this is the best positioning for automobile manufacturers.
O'Caine: In terms of platform competition, I think the only trend I saw at this year's auto show is that big media companies are trying to find ways to do interesting things in the automotive industry. I think we are all dreaming of what kind of entertainment we will have in the fully automatic driving car, but now we are beginning to see more recent things. For example, Audi and Disney are working together on similar efforts to imagine a virtual reality experience in the back seat of a car in a call environment. Intel showed Warner Brothers something similar. Do you want to bring media experience to cars or even smaller screens in the game?
Brady: We didn't focus on the smaller screen. I think it's absolutely interesting when you turn to driverless cars, or to larger cars, such as minivans and backseat entertainment. But I want to say that this is not our main concern right now. It is not clear what direction this field will take. As you may know, all airlines have screens installed in the back seat of each seat. Now you can walk up and down the aisle and everyone can watch something on their personal devices. So I don't know where it's going, but it's really cool to see experimentation and innovation going on.
O'Caine: Back to where we started. How do you see Android Auto's new project going hand in hand with the projection scheme? Do you think they can run in parallel for a period of time?
Brady: The projection scheme will not disappear. I mean a lot of cars on the road are running it now. So this is a big event. Now consumers are making purchasing decisions, and they want to be able to do so. If you remember when Bluetooth first appeared in a car, now it's like that moment, you may never buy a car without Bluetooth.
O'Caine: Even renting a car. I realized that when every car I rented was compatible with CarPlay or Android Auto, we had reached saturation point.
Brady: This is actually a good use case, right? Because you get in the car, plug in the power, put your stuff in a car you don't even know, and you only use it for a day or two, or at any time.
O'Caine: Except that part of my contact list it wants.
Brady: Well. So the projection scheme will definitely continue to exist. I also believe that we will coexist in the future. If I had an Android phone, its application would be compatible with Android Auto. All Android Auto functions, such as Spotify, WhatsApp and Waze, are built into smartphone applications. Imagine sitting in a rented car that runs Android as an embedded system. We can create a more seamless experience where you don't have to switch between two different systems like Android Auto and CarPlay today. They will become a system, but applications will appear.
And as a consumer, you don't know or care whether they run in the car or on my mobile phone. You never need to install them in your car. You can't log in to them in the car. They're actually running on your mobile phone, but they're there. We are very excited about it. Again, I think it's really the best of both worlds. The seamless experience built into embedded systems, as well as the high degree of personalization and continuity of mobile phones, no matter where you go, it knows you better than any other device.
O'Caine: It's like the ultimate platform move, where apps appear to speak for themselves in front of users, and where they come from doesn't matter.
O'Caine: And you don't have to carry Chromecast with you, and you don't have to worry about logging on to their smart TV or anything. If they have.
O'Caine: What are you going to do next year?
Brady: In Android Auto and in the projection scenario, we have a lot of new things to release, including UI improvements. As I said, use bigger, higher screens, and so on. We are very excited about it. In terms of embedding, the first batch of cars will be put into production in cooperation with Volvo, Polestar, Renault-Nissan and several other companies that have not yet announced the production of cars. We still have a lot of work to do, but we are very excited about it. We hope to show more previews and sneak a peek at the I/O Developers Conference in May, and then we will be ready for the year-end release.
O'Caine: What do you expect to look like in the weeks or months after the release?
Brady: I hope I can go on holiday. This is really the preparation for the release, which will be a huge and interesting job for us. I worked for a mobile phone company and helped develop Android. You've finished Pixel 3, or any cell phone, and then you put it on the market, and you've sold a lot of them. For cars, it's clear that you won't sell millions of cars on the first day. Therefore, our industry will enter a slow growth ramp, but we are very excited about the user experience and the benchmarks we will set for these initial cars. We know we want to make it a window to show the digital experience of modern automobiles.