What automakers seem to like a lot about Android Automotive is support for custom skins, and, in theory, the operating system can be customized by each company with a different user interface, although the functionality remains pretty much the same. What that means for drivers is that Android Automotive may even end up looking different from one brand to another, but under the hood, it’s still the same operating system with the same lineup of features.
As a fairly new product, Android Automotive has yet to become a widely adopted operating system, although Google is working extensively with car makers to ensure that more of them will eventually adopt it.
This strategy obviously proceeds at a slow pace, especially as an operating system like Android Automotive needs the right hardware to work properly, and unlike Android Auto, where a head unit update is all that’s needed, more internal improvements must be done this time.
In addition to the cars that already use Android Automotive (and listed below), there are several other manufacturers who have already confirmed that they would use the operating system in their cars. The first of these is the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi group, which has already announced that it plans to install Android Automotive on some of the models launched by their brands. The first is the Renault Megane E-Tech Electric, which was announced earlier this month.
General Motors also confirmed that it would start equipping cars with Android Automotive, as well as Stellantis, which is expected to install the operating system on its models from 2023. Ford and Lincoln cars will also make the switch to the same platform in two years , while others, including some Dodge and Lucid Air models, use an Android Automotive-based system without Google Automotive Services. And that’s how, no doubt, the Mountain View-based search giant is already arguing with other builders as well, but while it goes without saying that installing Android Automotive in a new model can’t happen overnight .
Meanwhile, adoption of Android Auto is also on the rise, with statistics showing that the ‘wireless’ mode is already working on no less than 100 million vehicles, not counting those that currently feature a third-party main unit with the same features. . Here is the complete list of cars currently confirmed with Android Automotive as of September 2021 (and new models are added as they are confirmed):
- 2020 Polestar 2
- 2021 Volvo XC40 P8
- 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge
- 2022 GMC Hummer EV
- 2022 Renault Megane E-Tech Electric
- 2022 Volvo XC60
- 2022 Volvo S90
- 2022 Volvo V90
- 2022 Volvo V90 Cross Country
- 2023 Ford cars
- 2023 Lincoln cars
Now the first difference between the two is how they are fed. While Android Auto requires the existence of an Android smartphone, Android Automotive runs directly on the main unit, without the need for a cable or anything else. Android Auto gives you easy access to apps like Google Maps, Waze, Spotify, and even phone calls, but Android Automotive does too.
In fact, the biggest benefit of Android Automotive running natively on a main unit is that it offers deeper integration with Google services. So while Android Auto can only control applications running on the phone, such as navigation or music playback, Android Automotive also has access to in-car functions, such as the air conditioning system.
Google Assistant is responsible for enhancing the hands-free experience, but once again, on Android Auto, it only has access to applications installed on the mobile device. The easiest way to see the huge difference Android Automotive integration makes is to look at the Google Maps feature features. We already know how Google Maps works on Android Auto, as the features available on the main unit are pretty much the same as on a mobile phone. But in Android Auto, everything is taken to a new level as Google Maps can monitor your battery level and calculate the route to a defined destination according to your range.
Google Maps can direct you to charging stations whenever you’re low on battery power, all because Google services have access to more information about the car and other functions. So overall, given that it’s the operating system that powers the infotainment unit, Android Automotive can offer much more advanced features, while Android Auto is limited to just mirroring the phone’s screen on the larger screen inside the cabin. Needless to say, Android Auto is the most economical solution for most people, especially considering that Android Automotive requires a new car, but in the future, the Mountain View-based search giant hopes to expand on both fronts to win a share. much larger part of the automotive sector.
So while the two companies are taking different approaches to expanding in the automotive sector, at the end of the day, the ultimate goal for both is to expand their services beyond the typical screen of a mobile device and computer. Google has been offering Android Auto for some time, but now the company is working non-stop on Android Automotive, a complete operating system that comes preloaded on the main units as part of partnerships between the research company and the builders.
One thing worth keeping in mind is the ultimate native experience without the need for a smartphone to power the entire driving experience. Announced in 2017, Android Automotive is therefore the platform that drives everything related to infotainment in the cars where it is installed, although compared to Android Auto, it also offers more advanced features, such as integration with the vehicle’s own functions.