Google partners with the world’s biggest auto group to bring Android to cars

Starting in 2021, millions of cars globally may have media displays powered by Google’s Android OS. Google is partnering with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, which sells more cars than any other carmaker collective, to build the operating system behind the entertainment and GPS systems. These new systems will offer apps through the Play Store, navigation through Google Maps, and voice commands via Google Assistant.

“In the future, the Google Assistant, which employs Google’s leading AI technology, can become the main way customers interact with their vehicles, hands-free,” Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi’s Global VP of connected vehicles Kal Mos said in a statement.

Last year, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance sold 10.6 million cars worldwide, and it sold 5.54 million vehicles by June 30th this year, so we might expect similar numbers for 2018. Android won’t arrive on these branded cars for three more years, so the total number of vehicles Google ultimately brings Android to could shift considerably. The alliance estimates it will sell more than 14 million cars in 2022.

As The Wall Street Journal notes, Google has been trying to get into the car space for over a decade. Its efforts have somewhat been hindered because auto companies view Google and other tech giants as potential competitors who may mine user data for profit. Many automakers like Mercedes-Benz and BMW prefer to create their own proprietary GPS systems rather than let companies like Google in, but they have come across difficulties streamlining the technology.

Still, considering a lot of drivers just mount their phones on the dash and use Google Maps and Waze to navigate traffic, the popularity of these apps over car company systems is already there. Google also offers its Android OS and services like Android Auto for free, which is expected to make the transition easier. At its I/O developer conference earlier this year, Google and Volvo showed off a 2020 model year XC40 that runs Android Auto natively, with Volvo’s Sensus skin over Android Pie. On the user’s end, they will be prompted to give Google permission to collect and analyze data through its apps, according to the WSJ.

It’s not going to be all Google, however. The systems will still be compatible with mobile devices running other operating systems like Apple’s CarPlay, so it looks like automakers are still keeping their options open.