The self-driving car of the future might still be years away, but Google wants to be part of your driving life today. With the Android Auto program, it might just be able to do that, by integrating the well-known and loved Android platform into your everyday driving experience.
Google wants everyone to know that, unlike its autonomous vehicle, it isn't alone in Android Auto. The program is, in fact, a joint venture of the Open Automotive Alliance that it announced early this year, roping in the likes of Hyundai, Kia, Chevrolet, and Honda, just to name a few. Several app developers have also already signed up, including Joyride, Pandora, TuneIn, Spotify, and more, so you won't be missing out on key mobile experiences.
But what is Android Auto really? To put it simply, it's Android for your car, plain and simple. Of course, you wouldn't want all the bells and whistles of an Android smartphone on your car head unit, so Android Auto does slim things down to focus on the driving essentials. Naturally, you get access to Google Maps, which includes turn by turn navigation, at least for regions where it's supported. There will also be Google Play Music integration and messaging as well. For that last part, you definitely don't want to be typing on any screen, so voice-enabled messaging is a prime feature here. In fact, as you would expect, Google's voice recognition features can be found in every nook and cranny of Android Auto.
Google plans to have Android Auto in cars by the end of the year, matching the statements left by NVIDIA regarding its Tegra chips in car systems. The chip maker's Tegra K1 could very well be powering the system's reference hardware, but that is, for now, still under wraps, at least from Google. What Google will be giving out will be the first Android Auto SDK, though the exact date of its release is unknown beyond a vague "soon".