With the automotive industry moving towards electrification, our cars are also becoming increasingly reliant on software. Because in this era of software-defined vehicles, even performance upgrades can be delivered just by a push of a button – so it stands to reason why carmakers are spending more and more money on the development of these vehicle operating systems.
We’ve seen BMW rolling out versions of its iDrive operating system like a pizza oven at a Dominos joint, and Mercedes-Benz too with its MBUX OS. But having experienced all of them in a variety of cars, there was only one that truly caught our attention: the Volvo C40‘s Android Automotive-based operating system.
The Android Automotive OS, as the name suggests, brings (nearly) the full Google Android experience into the car. That means all of your familiar apps and services, like Google Maps and even YouTube Music, are built right into your vehicle’s displays, saving you the hassle of connecting your mobile phone every time you step into the driver’s seat.
But on top of just convenience, the software also adds a lot more functionality to the infotainment system – especially for EVs. With an always-up-to-date list of chargers within Google Maps itself, the Volvo C40 makes it easy for drivers to look for chargers along their journey.
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On longer road trips, the car will also warn you if it doesn’t have enough range remaining to reach your destination, and will even suggest charging stops right from the built-in display itself, making range anxiety a thing of the past.
Because both of the screens are fully integrated together, you’ll also be able to display the navigation information right in the digital instrument cluster itself – freeing up valuable screen real estate on the dashboard for your other entertainment needs, while at the same time also help keep your eyes on the road.
As intriguing as it sounds, though, it’s definitely not without its flaws. Most notably, because it’s a separate operating system by itself instead of an extension of your phone (a la Android Auto), you will need to download and sign in to each individual app separately, which can be annoying especially on first set-up.
The apps must also be specifically designed for Android Automotive OS, which means app availability – despite the built-in Google Play Store – can be quite limited as it’s still not widely supported by app developers yet.
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Additionally, as the Google Android Automotive OS is a standalone system, notifications on your phone cannot currently be displayed on the vehicle’s infotainment display. On Android Auto, your notifications will pop up in a banner, and if you wish to, you can even reply directly using dictation, letting you stay connected without fumbling with your phone while driving (but please don’t do that!).
Apple iPhone users are fortunately exempt from this problem, as Volvo’s Google Android Automotive OS implementation now comes with Apple CarPlay connectivity too, albeit being wired only. There’s no indication when – or if – Android Auto will be included on the standalone Automotive OS in the future, but if you’re still holding out hope, the silver lining is that Apple CarPlay only came as part of an OTA update…
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Great post. I am facing a couple of these problems.