Google wins major Android Auto partnership with Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance

After years of sitting on the fringes, Google has finally made inroads into the automotive industry in a new partnership.

As part of a push to modernise in-car functionality and entertainment, Google has partnered with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance to bring Android Auto to millions of cars worldwide. This isn’t just Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi simply allowing Android Auto to run when you plug in an Android smartphone to the system, the entire system will be built on and run Android.

This is a huge move for Google as the alliance sells more vehicles than any other automaker in the world. After having spent so long trying to break into the market, this could be the in that Google needs to make Android a successful infotainment operating system.

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Other auto manufacturers have been reluctant to adopt Android. This is, in part, due to not wanting to cede control to the tech industry, but also because of concerns around the security of more open platforms like Android being installed in automobiles. If a carmaker adopts a system from the likes of Bosch, they’re able to skin it how they wish and can capture the valuable customer data for themselves. With Google at the helm, it’s going to be a system that looks almost identical – or at least familiar – between different cars, and Google is likely to take control of most of the data being captured.

A move to bring Android Auto as the default to more cars should also improve the car industry’s ability to adapt to change. With the advent of smartphones, many automakers have struggled to update car interiors to a point where people can seamlessly connect their device. Even now it’s a somewhat overly complex process, but a lot of companies are beginning to provide the most basic of phone functions – such as navigation and Bluetooth connectivity – as standard in their entry-level vehicles.

The decision to opt for a Google-built Android system instead of a custom interface came about because people are already very familiar with Google’s apps, with the alliance’s executives claiming most people just use phone navigation over their own in-car systems. The alliance is also already comfortable with the software as it’s been using it as an option for its cars for many years.

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Don’t expect your new and shiny Renault / Nissan / Mitsubishi to come equipped with Android right away though. The alliance states that the system will roll out globally in 2021, giving drivers access to Maps, the Play Store and Google’s voice-activated Assistant.

It’ll be interesting to see what comes next for Google and Android Auto. We already know that Volvo has said its next-generation of in-car systems will be powered by Android – although it’s not yet known in what guise – so the pressure is on for other automakers to make up their minds or fear being left behind.

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