How will Android Automotive impact product development?
Google has entered the automotive operating systems market. This will have an impact on automotive vendors’ product development strategies. Many will need to rethink how to differentiate and reconsider the value of data and services.
The Automotive Operating System (OS) playground remains scattered. Automotive Operating Systems: Global Market Forecast to 2025 forecasts that Android and Linux OS will grow as significant challengers in the OS market. Many consider Android Automotive as Google’s real entry to the Automotive OS markets, allowing access to the data of vehicles.
We have significant experience from different Android Automotive architectures:
- running OS directly on hardware
- running OS on top of virtualization in parallel to other operating systems like Linux and Autosar
Different operating systems all have their unique strengths for executing different features. Consequently, Automotive Tier-1 suppliers and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) often end up using multiple Operating Systems.
A strong candidate for in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems
Non-Recurring Engineering (NRE) costs of research, design, development and testing of a new infotainment system can add up to tens of millions of euros. It is quite common that OEMs spend 50% of this NRE cost for Human-Machine Interface (HMI) development alone. If a vendor uses Android Automotive and does not modify Google’s HMI too much, it could easily decrease the development costs by close to 50%, but this would happen at the expense of differentiation.
Currently, we at Tieto are involved in in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system development projects based on Android Automotive.
I see Android Automotive as an important backbone for infotainment (IVI) systems. However, it is not an "automotive" full-featured Operating System for infotainment. Many things are still missing and need to be modified or added to fulfill the needs of automotive vendors. These can be, for example, specific audio routing/handling, multiscreen synchronization support, or specific input devices support.
Data ownership and sharing with Google also requires special attention.
Differentiation via services and user experience
Android Automotive will force automotive vendors to think about how to differentiate via user experience and services by using leading-edge technologies. That said, if a lot of adaptation is done to the Android Automotive level, maintenance costs become painfully costly. We have seen this already in the mobile phone industry.
Hopefully project Treble, a major re-architecture in the way Android works, will decrease this workload and costs. It aims to separate the operating system more clearly from hardware, thus making updates and changes easier.
I believe that automotive vendor winners will be those who succeed in:
- Developing services that function on multiple operating systems rather than a single platform
- Executing continuous agility and market sensitivity in their product strategies, being able to react quickly to what part is worth developing, and what to use “ready-made”. For example, Google promotes their own Automotive Services (GAS), which are a set of services dedicated to automotive. It is up to the automotive vendor whether or not to utilise them.
We have a decade’s experience of working with consumer electronic companies using Android and its software framework, and we now help automotive vendors master Android Automotive based infotainment projects. In the Digital Cockpit domain, we provide full-stack software services from embedded to cloud applications and connectivity.
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