Late last year, Reuters reported that Google was working on a version of Android that would serve as a vehicle's main infotainment system, separate from Android Auto, which runs on top of existing systems. Today Ars Technica has uncovered references to the proposed infotainment system deep within the 74-page Android Compatibility Definition document Google releases with every new version of Android.
There are 13 mentions of "Android Automotive" within the document. As Ars Techinca points out, Android Auto is technically an app, not a distinct operating system, so mentions of it in a compatibility document shouldn't be present. That leaves a full-on auto operating system that would replace infotainment systems like BMW's iDrive instead of working in chorus with it as the most likely alternative.
An Android-based infotainment system could have cars from participating manufacturers shipping with Google Maps as the backbone of the navigation system, and incorporate a number of Google's products like search and Google Play Music without the need for a connected phone. Google will still have its work cut out for it, though: automakers may not want to go deeper with Android in the dashboard when the company could soon be a serious competitor.
We've reached out to Google for comment.