Volvo’s Polestar 2 with Android Automotive is how all car software should be designed

The Android Auto native saga has a long and winding road, but we're finally getting close to the finish line. Google's software for cars, now called Android Automotive OS and not to be confused with the duplicate Android Auto standard from your smartphone, was first announced a couple of years ago as a kind of commitment to an automotive industry that He realized that it could never be built. Software as good as Silicon Valley.

It has taken several forms, as it has moved from updated Volvo information and entertainment systems to new custom screens. And behind closed doors, it has gone through countless iterations that have never seen the public, as Google has done a careful dance by allowing automakers to have some control of the design while working closely with component suppliers to Make sure that the touch screen systems in the car are up to the snuff.

However, now, at this year's Google I / O Developer Conference, we are glimpsing for the first time how this now polished software can be seen in its final version for the consumer. To show the latest version of Android Automotive, Google and Volvo brought out the new Polestar 2, a fully electric luxury vehicle designed to compete with Tesla.

To be fair, it's a prototype version of the car that runs a prototype version of Android Automotive. But the two companies could not have chosen a nicer showcase for the latest version of the software. The central screen is a large 11-inch screen, about the size of a tablet, that recalls Tesla's infotainment configuration. Polestar built a second, even 12-inch screen that sits on the steering wheel and reflects critical information from Google Maps. Everything works together so that all software for automobiles, in an ideal world, should be designed, if the automotive industry had decades of software experience that Google has.

The whole system is intuitive in a way that goes beyond the Android Auto standard, which received an update last week to make it simpler and easier to use, but still largely reflects your phone's information in a way least annoying Android Automotive, on the other hand, can be used without a smartphone at all. More importantly, you can control the basic functions of the vehicle, such as changing the temperature in the car and adjusting the direction, braking and other key mechanical characteristics, all from the central system and by voice, thanks to Google Assistant.

We saw a bit of this in a preview of the website that launched Polestar earlier this year, but seeing it in the car itself presents a more compelling argument that this is not a mix of Google's Frankenstein and software of car, but a good idea -out hybrid of the two.

The Polestar 2 was officially announced at the end of February, and will not go into production until next year. But it will be the first car to officially get Android Automotive OS with a confirmed set of Google Play apps, including Google Maps. Other automakers, such as Fiat Chrysler and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, have registered to use the software in new vehicles, and Audi is the only automaker together with Volvo that has announced an early partnership with Google in 2017.

That means that Polestar 2 has the most updated version of the software in what we are told is very close to its final form. Last year, we saw a version of Android Automotive on a Volvo XC40, but now it is radically different and is designed for the new vertical infotainment screens that seem ready to occupy the space of the luxury car and reach the vehicles of intermediate level on time.


Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

On a broader level, this is just one more chapter in the ongoing battle to control the car. Unlike the appliance industry, which largely gave control to the most important players of technology to take over the smart home with own products, the automotive industry has an advantage in Silicon Valley: technology companies do not They can create products as complex as automobiles. , and even the attempts of companies as well financed and determined as Apple have resulted in failures and pivots. Even Tesla, which is considered a technology company, remains an automobile manufacturer at its heart, and the only player in the automotive industry to have opened its own path when it comes to software and touch screens for automobiles.

That means there's plenty of room for the traditional auto industry to maintain at least some of its power when associated with tech giants. We're starting to see a form of division between those who partner with Google and those who opt for Automotive Grade Linux, an open source project that allows automakers to create their own software without handing over the keys to companies technology. But more than CarPlay, which seems to remain a simple system for the iPhone, Android Automotive is positioned to be a true competitor in the automotive market, especially if the software works as well for other vehicles as for the Polestar. 2.