Open Automotive Alliance

Open Automotive Alliance


When Google launched Android for phones back in 2007, one of its first moves was to bring together a group of interested mobile players under the Open Handset Alliance moniker.

Now, they are doing something similar for cars. Overnight, the company announced the Open Automotive Alliance — an effort designed to bring Android to cars as early as this year. Members include Google, chipmaker Nvidia and automakers Audi, GM, Honda and Hyundai.

Until now, Google’s in-car efforts have consisted of a rather small venture to get Google Maps in some vehicles.

“Millions of people are already familiar with Android and use it every day,” Google Senior VP Sundar Pichai said in a statement. “The expansion of the Android platform into automotive will allow our industry partners to more easily integrate mobile technology into cars and offer drivers a familiar, seamless experience so they can focus on the road.”

What was already shaping up to be a significant show for the auto industry now has the potential to be a watershed moment for in-car technology.

On Sunday night, Nvidia announced that a version of its new Tegra K1 chip is designed for cars and also detailed an effort to create a new kind of customizable digital dashboard. CEO Jen-Hsun Huang also said the company has design wins with more than 20 automakers covering 100 new models, though he didn’t name any of the newly won customers.

GM said it plans to pair the Android work with its next-generation OnStar effort that includes 4G LTE from AT&T, while Audi is expected to talk about its plans at a keynote speech later on Monday.

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This sounds like a bad idea for a number of reasons:

1) Anything the manufacturers add to the car will be redundant.  Most of us already carry a smartphone, and many also have a tablet which offers a better in-dash screen size.  So if I already have two devices that handle the same functions, and I'm already paying for two data plans, why does my car need to duplicate all of that tech?

2) Manufacturers will probably act like phone companies by loading up their version of Android with a bunch of crapware.  I'm sure some product manager has visions of selling ads: "You've been on the road for two hours now.  Take a break at the McDonalds at the next exit."

3) Are these "Alliance" members writing off their iOS customers, or will they have to support both platforms?  What about people that prefer Windows or Ubuntu mobile?  I'm a tech savvy person, but I would probably avoid a car that doesn't match my preferred ecosystem.

4) The car will need a dedicated cell connection, at additional cost to either the consumer or manufacturer.

5) Why do we want yet another computer/device that needs frequent attention for updates, sync, etc.  Isn't everyone getting tired of dealing with tech problems and incompatibility at home and work?  I can't wait to see what happens after an automatic software update rapidly drains the car battery (like the recent problem with Nest thermostats).

6) Why not give us a place in the dashboard where we can mount our existing phone and/or tablet and simply use that?  Cars already come with USB for power and Bluetooth for audio integration so the only missing part is the physical mount.  A standardized dashboard space could accommodate phone-specific inserts to fit the customer's preferred device, and allow simple upgrades/changes.  

7) My phone and tablet already have a great GPS, weather, traffic, news, all my music, a lot of other useful travel apps and I'm already paying for it. Besides all that, I already know how to use and maintain my phone so there's no extra effort for me, and I am free to change brands (iOS, Android, Windows) whenever I feel like it.

Smartphones are a ubiquitous part of our lives at this point.  Why doesn't the auto industry accept that fact and find a way to integrate that into our driving experience?

J. Rosmann
J. Rosmann

Questions to ask of Google and its OAA partners at their press conference today:

Is Google sharing its advertising revenues obtained through its OAA Partners with its auto partners?

Has Google extended full indemnity protection to all its OAA partners from any and all Android patent infringement judgments against Google and its Android partners?

Will Google pay the full licensing costs on the part of each OAA member firm that it ultimately must pay to Microsoft, Nokia, Apple, Sony, Oracle, and others, to settle its Android infringement judgments?

Is OAA membership the critical requirement for gaining access to Google Maps in the car?  What other "tying" requirements is Google forcing upon an OAA member?

Is Google charging for the licensing of Android by each OAA member?


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