Technology increasingly plays a part of the vehicle experience and automakers are forced to make big bold platform decisions to power the experience they want for owners.
The latest company to commit to a new operating system is Ford, who will now use Google’s Android to power their infotainment experience, along with Google’s Cloud services for AI, ML and more. The news comes as part of an announcement of a 6-year partnership beginning 2023 and will see millions of future Ford and Lincoln vehicles be powered by Android and have Google apps and services built-in.
Ford has quite the history when it comes to vehicle operating systems. Back when Ford launched SYNC in 2007, followed quickly by SYNC 2 in 2008, the system was built on top of Windows Embedded Automotive. This was fairly primitive by today’s standards, but did allow you to connect your phone and reply to listen to SMS. It later improved voice commands and even allowed 3rd party app developers to publish connected apps to the platform, allowing drivers to keep their hands on the wheel, eyes on the road.
Fast forward to Sync 3 and Microsoft had jumped ship to BlackBerry’s QNX operating system by 2009. This was faster and more powerful and offered a much improved user interface through touchscreen and natural-language voice input.
Ford is now moving to Android as their platform of choice. As the third operating system they’ve built their business on in 15 years, it seems Ford has been let down by the platforms of their past, not scaling for the modern needs of consumers.
Ultimately the Android for Cars allows company’s like Ford, who are unlikely to be the last to make this move, will leverage Google Maps for navigation, Google Assistant for voice input, YouTube for entertainment while charging (or being driven by robotaxi’s in the future).
Now in 2021, customers expect a lot more from a connected car, including the ability to lock and unlock the car with their phone, control the climate control, change vehicle settings and more.
While support for Android Auto being a common inclusion in most vehicles today, having Android be the car’s whole operating system is something dramatically different. At the OS level, Ford can integrate vehicle systems into the platform and allow users to interact with far more than just playing music and answering calls.
It is interesting to see a major automaker like Ford decide to partner with a third party, while their competition has decided to own the whole stack. This provides plenty of benefit, or speed to market, reduced costs etc, but does come with some downsides.
This means updates to the operating system are now traversing two companies and is likely to take longer than a single software stack. I’d hope that Ford has the ability to release OTA updates to their vehicles outside of a full Android OS upgrade.
“As Ford continues the most profound transformation in our history with electrification, connectivity and self-driving, Google and Ford coming together establishes an innovation powerhouse truly able to deliver a superior experience for our customers and modernize our business,”
Jim Farley, President and CEO of Ford.
“From the first moving assembly line to the latest driver-assist technology, Ford has set the pace of innovation for the automotive industry for more than 120 years.
We’re proud to partner to apply the best of Google’s AI, data analytics, compute and cloud platfo