This morning, Google and a handful of automobile manufacturers, including Audi, GM, Honda and Hyundai, announced a partnership designed to bring the Android mobile platform to vehicles. Chip-maker Nvidia is also an Open Automotive Alliance member, and the group says "this announcement is the beginning, not the end. We'll enthusiastically work with any company interested in the compatible use of the Android with cars." The first Android-enabled cars from the new Open Automotive Alliance are expected to be released sometime this year. (Follow CES 2014 live, and get the latest CES news here.)
Last June, Apple announced an upcoming feature in its iOS software that will let iPhone users connect their devices to compatible in-car dashboard systems and access some iOS features, including maps, the phone, messaging, music and more. The iOS in the Car features are not yet available, but Apple says they're "coming soon" and rumors suggest they could be part of the next iOS 7 software update. During its iOS in the Car unveiling, Apple reportedly announced the following automotive partners that will offers iOS in the Car support: Honda; Mercedes-Benz; Nissan; Ferrari; Infiniti; Kia; Hyundai; Volvo; Acura; Jaguar; Opel; and Chevrolet.
In-car iOS features are already available in some vehicles, including Chevrolet's Spark and Sonic cars, which both offer Siri Eyes Free, a feature that lets drivers push a button on their steering wheels to access select iPhone-based voice commands.
The market for in-car computer systems is growing rapidly, thanks in part to the popularity of mobile devices and mobile software, which have far surpassed most of today's in-car systems in functionality and design. More specifically, advancements in smartphone-based navigation have largely made expensive, dedicated in-car GPS unit obsolete. In-car technology is expected to be a leading theme at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week in Las Vegas, and it's no coincidence that Google and its partners announced the Open Automotive Alliance a day before the start of CES.
Google and Apple aren't the only mobile companies with irons in the fire. BlackBerry's QNX OS is the foundation of many in-car systems today. But Apple and Google both have an advantage due to the breadth and size of both the Android and iOS ecosystems, which already consists of millions of applications and services.
Google's Android is by far the most popular mobile OS in the world, with 81 percent of the market in Q3 2013, according to research firm IDC. Apple's iOS had just under 13 percent of the market in the same quarter, IDC says. Bringing Android and iOS to the car will only increase the competition between Google and Apple, and it represents a significant opportunity for both companies to further grow their market dominance and strengthen their ecosystems.
The year 2014 should be an interesting one in the world of in-car tech, and it could be Google and Apple leading the charge.