Google wants Android to be the brains inside your car, and its plans to accomplish that extend far beyond Android Auto. According to Reuters, the company is working on a version of Android specifically designed to serve as a car's central infotainment system. Right now, Android Auto is a layer that runs on top of existing in-car platforms from automakers — much like Apple's CarPlay. But Reuters makes it sound like Google ultimately wants to replace systems like Ford Sync and BMW iDrive rather than exist alongside them.
This direct integration would put Google's services like Maps at the forefront of crucial tasks like navigation. And since more cars are being outfitted with Wi-Fi and cellular radios, it's not hard to imagine checking Gmail or your Hangouts messages on the road. With Android Auto as it exists now, drivers can still hop between Google's software and the built-in apps that come from car manufacturers. As Reuters notes, convincing the major automakers to go solely with Google for their in-car needs is likely going to be a tough argument.
The current version of Android Auto also requires a smartphone to be plugged in — since that's really what powers Google's current approach. This new variant of Android, which would presumably be loaded onto cars leaving the factory, will debut alongside Android M in about a year, according to Reuters. Even the current incarnation of Android Auto is off to a slow rollout — again, just like CarPlay. Google's got a very long list of auto manufacturers who've promised to back the platform, but we won't start seeing support until sometime next year.