The Google Earth navigation Audi is putting into the A8 doesn't run on Android; it uses the real-time QNX system that RIM has just bought so it can put BlackBerry into cars.
While it will be a few years before we see full in-car systems running Android, Autumn will see the first cars available with built-in integration for Android smartphones that let you launch and control apps from the car's interface.
iPhone vs Android
Although they started by planning iPhone integration, car makers have been turning their focus to Android instead.
Robert Acker, the CEO of Aha Mobile, told TechRadar that Aha has an iPhone app that reads out tweets, Facebook updates and traffic alerts or streams podcasts from a driver-friendly interface.
Manufacturers plan to offer it as an in-car option, but many car companies have been asking them for an Android app instead.
"They have to do iPhone," says Acker,"but Android is a lot more open. There aren't as many steps as for iPhone integration and they don't have to buy a proprietary chip [from Apple]. A lot of them have said 'let's start by doing an Android integration and we'll add in the iPhone piece later."
Android has another advantage; although the iPhone 4 software adds multi-tasking it still doesn't let you launch an app remotely. "With Android, Acker explains, "I can plug my phone in and push this button in the car and launch apps on the phone.
"You're using the vehicle controls and you never have to look at the phone again. You can't have that kind of control on the iPhone." The phone will give the car an Internet connection – "so you can play a Pandora radio station or listen to a Twitter feed in your vehicle, suggests Acker.
Car apps will be able to control some systems within the car, but how much is going to vary from vehicle to vehicle; Ford's SYNC system (based on Windows CE) will tell developers exactly what they can and can't control.
But other manufacturers aren't specifying the details so clearly because either they will approve apps individually or they'll pick a handful of app developers to work with. At least one major vendor is contemplating having its own Android app store, says Acker.
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