Google and Fiat Chrysler (FCA) have worked together to build a new infotainment system on top of Android, the companies announced ahead of the beginning of CES today. The project combines FCA’s UConnect infotainment system with Android 7.0 Nougat. It keeps the carmaker’s user interface while integrating a number of apps like Google Assistant and Maps, as well as other Android apps like Pandora, Spotify, and others.
It’s an expansion of a partnership between the two companies that saw Chrysler working with Google to build 100 Pacifica minivans integrated with Google’s autonomous driving hardware and software.
every screen in your car could run android
At Google I/O earlier this year, the company laid out its ambitions to have Android tied into every user-facing system in the car, integrated into everything from climate control and audio controls to the speedometer. That system is open-source and available for customization to the automaker’s tastes, even including support for Android Auto and CarPlay. Many carmakers believe their infotainment user interface is an extension of the car brand itself, which makes customizability hugely important.
“With Android, we are able to maintain our unique and intuitive Uconnect user interface, all while integrating our easy-to-use systems with Android’s features and ecosystem of applications,” said Chris Barman, FCA’s head of electrical engineering, in a statement.
infotainment systems are generally terrible, so this could be a positive step
If carmakers can save time and money developing infotainment systems on top of Android, especially with a pre-existing Android app ecosystem, the platform could take off. It faces competition both from advanced platforms divisions within carmakers (like Audi’s virtual cockpit) as well as other platforms like BlackBerry’s QNX.
Since most vehicle infotainment systems are terribly difficult to use, just about anything that can make them better is a must-have, but there’s no word from FCA or Google on when the platform might make it to dealer showrooms.