Android Automotive OS review: Under the hood with Google’s car OS

Please don't actually drive while wearing a giant Android mask.

Enlarge / Please don’t actually drive while wearing a giant Android mask. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Polestar)

Can Google do to car infotainment what it did to smartphones?

Every car manufacturer nowadays needs to include an infotainment system with its car, and that means developing an operating system, making a UI that isn’t terrible, building an SDK and app ecosystem, and doing a million other things car manufacturers have not typically needed to do. In the face of all that, Google is pulling out the Android smartphone playbook and tempting car manufacturers with a car-specific version of Android, called the “Android Automotive OS.”

“Let us build your operating system!” Google essentially tells the car manufacturers. “We’ve got great hardware and touch support, third-party apps, and a well-known developer SDK! We’ll provide Google Maps, Google Assistant voice commands, and the Play Store! We even update the codebase with monthly security updates! Best of all, for you, it’s free! Just sign this contract ensuring you’ll include all of our apps and services.”

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