Android Automotive, the new operating system for smart cars

The infotainament system of the new electric car Polestar 2 is based on Android Automotive OS, here's how it works and what it can do

It's an electric car, to be precise a crossover that straddles the line between an SUV and a sedan, it's called Polestar 2 and it's the first to arrive on the market with Google's Android Automotive OS operating system. It looks like Android Auto, but it's much more than that, so much so that Polestar (a brand of the Geely-Volvo group) has not failed to highlight this feature among the most important innovations of this model.

Unlike Android Auto, which is a platform that relies on the operating system of the car's infotainment system, Android Automotive is itself the system and manages all the electronics, even the ones you can't see. This means that you need to have a Google account to use even the basic functions of the car, which are no longer handled by a separate operating system. However, since Android Auto and Android Automotive are not the same thing, the latter currently has fewer apps available than the former: there are a dozen, including Spotify, YouTube Music and, of course, Google Maps. In the Polestar 2 you interface with Android Automotive through a large touch screen in a vertical position, which makes the car's dashboard look like a huge smartphone.

Android Automotive: how it works

The first thing you have to do to use Android Automotive is to enter your Google account data. On the Polestar 2 you can enter only one driver profile per Google account, the other accounts must eventually be entered using other profiles. To finalize the creation of the profile it is necessary to visit a URL through the smartphone (but Google assures that soon will arrive the QR Code).

At this point it is possible to install the compatible apps we prefer, through the usual Play Store. On the Polestar 2, safety comes before fun, so it's impossible to watch movies or play games while the car is in gear. Perhaps on other cars, in the future, it will be possible to do so. The Polestar 2's graphical user interface should be taken with a grain of salt because it's based on Android Pie 9.

But the real innovation of Android Automotive compared to Android Auto is the ability to control the entire car, even with voice commands. That means, for example, being able to ask Google to raise or lower the temperature of the air conditioning. Una cosa che si può fare già con la voce su molte altre auto, ma chiedendolo all’assistente vocale specifico di ogni casa automobilistica.

Naturalmente si può usare Assistant anche per comandare gli oggetti smart della nostra casa, chiedendogli ad esempio di impostare a casa la stessa temperatura che abbiamo in auto. La lista dei comandi compatibili, però, è ancora molto ampia e, soprattutto, su Android Automotive non c’è ancora il “Voice Match“. L’assistente, cioè, non è ancora in grado di riconoscere la voce di chi gli parla, quindi chiunque salga in auto può prendere possesso dell’account del guidatore impartendo comandi vocali.

Android Automotive: su quali auto arriverà

La Polestar 2 è la prima auto al mondo con Android Automotive OS, ma presto non sarà l’unica. Il gruppo General Motors ha infatti annunciato che entro il 2021 lancerà i primi modelli di auto con questo sistema operativo. Il sistema Uconnect 5 delle auto del gruppo FCA sta per essere convertito ad Android Automotive. Recently, the PSA group has also decided to switch to Android Automotive.