Google nabbed another big automaker in its quest to become the default operating system for cars. Honda will soon begin rolling out vehicles with Google’s embedded Android Automotive OS, which includes Google’s voice-activated Assistant, Google Maps, and other automotive-approved Android apps as the default infotainment.
The first Honda vehicles with embedded Android will start rolling out in 2022. The Japanese automaker wouldn’t say which models it expects to get the new infotainment systems first.
“We will collaborate with Google to better integrate Google in-vehicle services in our vehicles including the ability to more-easily use features like Google Assistant, Google Maps functionality and other in-vehicle apps offered through Google Play,” a Honda spokesperson said in an email.
To be clear, Android Automotive is distinct from Android Auto. The former is the car’s default infotainment system, controlling everything from music to navigation to heating and air conditioning, while the latter is projected from a smartphone onto the car’s dashboard display and serves as a competitor to Apple’s CarPlay. Google also had a number of announcements regarding Android Auto (that you can read about here).
There are only two cars available today with embedded Android Automotive: the Polestar 2 and Volvo XC40 Recharge. But Google has made deals with a number of other automakers, including Ford, General Motors, and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, that will result in millions of future vehicles released with default Android operating systems.
The news that Honda is joining the Android Automotive party won’t come as a complete surprise, given that the automaker’s current operating system has been Android-based for years. Honda was also part of the Google-led Open Automotive Alliance, along with Audi, Hyundai, and chipmaker Nvidia, which focused on the integration of Android into in-car infotainment.
But it can also be a slippery slope. Initially, car companies seemed to want to keep big tech companies at arm’s length to prevent them from tapping into the lucrative customer data streams flowing in and out of their vehicles. But Honda figures that by letting Google under the hood, it can probably sell more cars to customers who would prefer a more smartphone-like in-car experience than the OS software currently provided by the automaker.