Google's Android coming to cars this year

The first cars running Android Auto, a Google OS for in-car entertainment systems, is coming before the end of the year, the company said

Google is launching a new version of its Android operating system for use in cars, seeking to integrate itself into a place in which Americans spend hours every week.

During a preview of the new system at the Google I/O developer event in San Francisco, the company showed off features of the software and said it will start appearing in new cars before the end of 2014.

Upon connecting an Android phone to an Android Auto in-car entertainment system, notifications and applications from the phone were available through the car's larger flat-panel display. These included Google Maps and the phone's music player.

Because it's customized for use in cars, the system is primarily controlled by voice commands.

To gain support of the new platform, Google is supplying a new SDK -- a set of commands that allows software to interface with the operating system. The SDK will let Android developers write applications that can tie into auto-based entertainment systems if they are available.

The auto entertainment market is wide open, with a range of proprietary operating systems in use, but competition is heating up. Apple took a first step toward in-car use earlier this year when it announced CarPlay, a system that will link iPhones with auto systems.

Google is attempting to bring car makers together under something called the "Open Automotive Alliance." The company has attracted additional members, but to date few have committed to launching Android Auto and alliance membership doesn't mean they have to, Google said Wednesday.

The new members include auto makers Bentley, Nissan, Renault, Volkswagen and Volvo; and entertainment-system makers Alpine, Clarion, Fujitsu Ten, JVC Kenwood, LG, Pioneer and Panasonic.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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