Google may launch Android Auto, making your car a big mobile device

According to a report, Google is planning to launch a native version of Android for car infotainment units that will offer the same Internet connectivity as a smartphone.

Google may be planning to launch a version of Android Auto for vehicle infotainment centers -- also known as head units -- that will eliminate the need for a smartphone to be connected, giving native access to the Internet and mobile applications.

Today, Android Auto, Apple's CarPlay, or open source standards such as MirrorLink or GENIVI enable vehicle infotainment centers to mirror a version of a smartphone OS onto a vehicle's head unit, thereby enabling the driver to use specific applications, such as Google Maps or iTunes.

The difference with what Google may be planning, according to one report, is that Android Auto would be native on the head unit, and a driver would no longer necessarily need a smartphone to connect to those applications and the Internet.

Thilo Koslowski, a vice president at industry research firm Gartner, said what Google may be planning should be no surprise as executives talked about it when they announced the formation of the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA) earlier this year. The OAA includes Google, Audi, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and processor chip company Nvidia.

During the initial OAA announcement, Google talked about the car eventually becoming another device platform, Koslowski said.

The difference, according to the Reuters report, is that the upcoming version of Android Auto (or whatever Google decides on calling it) won't be mirroring an application interface from a connected smartphone; it will have that interface natively.

"It just allows you to get applications more quickly and naturally," Koslowski said. "Think about the social networking capabilities, not that you would physically text, but you could talk to the system. Your car could also announce your location to others by automatically updating your status on Google+."

Taking it a step further, Google Auto could also talk to the Internet of Things, such as your home's Nest thermostat and tell it to turn up the temperature as make your way home.

"You car becomes a big mobile device. I call this the Internet of Cars, which is part of the Internet of Things," Koslowski said. "Some people may find that creepy, but I think there's a lot of value in it too."

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