So far, CES 2014 has not disappointed in terms of big news.
Apple notoriously declines to attend CES, and now Google has gone and announced a significant partnerships with four major automakers and a chipmaker to put Android in millions or maybe hundreds of millions of car dashboards. Audi, Honda, Hyundai, and GM will put Android into their cars as result of the deal.
Music fans who buy those cars are going to be excited about their new listening options, with major implications:
- Music services and internet radio services will have a great new way to tap into FM and satellite listening (especially in the paid area, if a year of the service is bundled with a car, or the in-car version requires a premium account).
- Drivers with iPhones won't be able to connect them to these cars the way Android people will be able to.
- The range of functionality for music apps in the car should increase significantly.
On Monday morning, Google announced the Open Automotive Alliance with those manufacturers plus Nvidia, which will make the chips. According to that site, this will be "a global partnership" that will " help drive innovation, and make technology in the car safer and more intuitive for everyone." General Motors cars will connect their Android dashboards to the net with OnStar 4G LTE, but so far, no major telecoms have joined the alliance to provide connectivity.
This is not the first time direct-internet-connected music apps have been embedded directly into car dashboards. In December, rara and BMW announced the first such cars in Europe.
However, this first-ever use of Android in the dash (which comes later -- the first step appears to be integration with an Android phone) should make it a lot easier for more developers to port their stuff onto the platform, and increase drivers's listening options significantly.
Once the same Android device is handling location, communication, music, video, navigation, safety, and other features -- and it also happens to be wired to the car's sensors themselves -- and the dashboard has direct access to tens of millions of songs -- the possibilities for developing insane music apps that take all of those factors into account become fairly limitless: "Life in the Fast Lane" for when you're speeding by too high a margin, "Crosstown Traffic" for that, not to mention the ability to Like and Share everything with your steering wheel... but only if app developers have robust access to a great API for hooking into the car, and consumers are able to put whatever Android apps they want onto these cars, which would seem likely.
The Open Automotive Alliance FAQ says, "We welcome those in the automotive and technology space who are committed to bringing the best of mobile into the automobile in safe and seamless ways," which sounds like just about any real Android developer can join. "With one platform that developers are already familiar with to target (rather than a patchwork of platforms from different automakers)," continues the FAQ, "developers will be able to focus on delivering a powerful experience for users."
Audi, GM, Google, Honda, Hyundai, and Nvidia say the first Android cars will go on sale by the end of the 2014.