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Android coming soon to more cars

By

December 7, 2011

More Android in-car entertainment systems are on their way. In September, Hong Kong's Innotrends unveiled an Android 2.3 Gingerbread-based "infotainment" system. Problem is, that system only fits in vehicles with German "2 DIN" standard dashboard. So the news that Intel subsidiary Wind River, which makes all kinds of embedded devices found in cars and elsewhere, is teaming up with stereo maker Clarion to develop new Android-based in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems is big news for anyone interested in seeing more Android in more places.

In announcing the new partnership, Wind River said it "is creating a custom Android software platform for an automotive environment and providing software integration services to ensure Clarion delivers a reliable and high quality device."

Translation: Wind River is using Android to make an IVI operating system that will work reliably as an aftermarket addition or original equipment straight from the assembly line, because "force closing" an app isn't an option behind the wheel.

The first Clarion / Wind River Android system will focus on multimedia, entertainment and connectivity and will be based on the Freescale i.MX ARM-based processor family.

Don't expect an Android IVI to have the same look or feel as your familiar smartphone or tablet running Gingerbread. One of the central advantages of Android is the flexibility of an open source system, which allows for all the customization, skinning and other forms of differentiation that folks in the automotive world love. "Wind River delivers commercial quality Android software and takes care of the complex matters of custom software development, integration and testing to allow (hardware makers) to concentrate on developing innovative features that will distinguish their devices," says Georg Doll, general manager of automotive solutions at Wind River.

While it's not impossible to conceive of one day using voice control in your vehicle to jump on the Android Market and download an app direct to your IVI, it's not likely anytime soon. Wind River is basically "forking" Android, or using it as a basis for their own system in much the same way Amazon forked Android to create the skin for the Kindle Fire e-reader/tablet.

Even if an Android IVI won't be able to act as an extension of an Android phone or tab for a while, it's a big move towards opening up the software inside the dashboard, something that's almost always been proprietary and closely-guarded territory until now. The result will eventually be the potential for more compatibility and a truly "connected car" experience more similar to what we've become accustomed to on our touchscreens.

Clarion and Wind River did not release any information about when the first Android IVI from the collaboration can be expected.

Source: Wind River

About the Author
Eric Mack Eric Mack has been covering technology and the world since the late 1990s. As well as being a Gizmag regular, he currently contributes to CNET, NPR and other outlets.   All articles by Eric Mack
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