Would you be willing to drive a car with an infotainment system fully powered by a flavor of Android? Ars Technica reports that Volvo is making a huge bet that enough people will. The Swedish car manufacturer is equipping their newly unveiled Polestar 2 with an entirely Android-based OS. Google Assistant will make an appearance, as will the widely-used Google Maps. For anyone deeply tied into the Google ecosystem, an Android-powered car infotainment system promises to elegantly tie contacts, saved locations, and even email and messaging capabilities.

Google has aggressively pursued flavors of Android Auto as early as 2014, but the system that will debut in the Polestar 2 will be much more than just a mirrored screen for your Android device. It will inhabit its own app ecosystem, offering only apps that comply with NHTSA standards for safety. That said, I'd be shocked if some rogue car hacker isn't able to get some version of Doom up and running on the car. Additionally, the Polestar 2 is slated to have a dedicated internet connection for its infotainment system, meaning updates can be rolled out remotely to vehicles. And unlike other forked versions of Android used in other cars, the Polestar 2 will feature a much more recent version of Android.

So what's the take away for the average car-buyer? At least from where I'm standing, a Google-sanctioned and supported infotainment system is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, Google has a much better track record of creating intuitive UIs and user experiences that auto manufacturers. I speak from the experience of a Ford owner who has to deal with their awful Sync system on a daily basis. But while I'd welcome a version of Google Maps running natively on my car's infotainment system, one can't help but wonder about the kind of information goldmine that drivers would be granting Google. We won't know what kind of telemetry data Google will be collecting, how often the system phones home, and other privacy concerns-- at least until hackers get their hands on the vehicle.

The real question is at what point will car manufacturers, if ever, reluinquish design and development duties for their infotainment systems to a third party such as Google? The reality is that poorly-designed and coded infotainment systems can absolutely tank a vehicle's reputation. Repeat offenders like Subaru and Ford would finally be able to deploy a standard software package they don't have to worry about updating. But as Google seeks to further enmesh itself with other, non-tech industries, you have to wonder if the search titan has its fingers in too many pies. The entire situation ultimately boils down to 'Will this move be a win-win for consumers and auto manufacturers alike?' Only time will tell.


Tags: volvo, android, android auto, polestar, OS

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