By Joe Levi | February 5, 2014 7:34 AM
Like it or not, you’ve got to admit that Android has come a long way, and is finally proving to be a formidable contender against entrenched devices running iOS. Android has smartphones, phablets, tablets, and even TV set-top boxes. Google has its ChromeBook and ChromeCast to push devices into the home as well as the office. Google even has Glass, a wearable companion to help put commonly used information as well as activities (snapping pictures, recording memos, looking stuff up, and even shooting videos) on your head.
What about your car? Google has been working on a self-driving car for quite some time, and has made very impressive progress, but that’s not what we are talking about here. What this is all about is the perfect Android in-car experience — and it could be closer than you think.
Hands-free Calling & Texting
The first integration that we want to see built into our cars is hands-free calling and texting. Many of today’s modern cars already include hand-free as an option, and many are including this very convenient Bluetooth feature as a standard offering. Why? It lets you keep your phone in your pocket or purse, and still make and receive phone calls. This helps you keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.
Texting is something different. With today’s in-car technology it’s difficult to implement a system that will allow you to receive texts without looking at your phone. Replying could be possible if your phone has voice recognition and you’re familiar with how to use it.
In our Android-powered car, hands-free should be a given — for both calling and texting. The more time you can spend with your hands at ten and two (or nine and three, if that’s more your style), the better!
Let’s face it, analog radio doesn’t have the stations that you want. Digital radio is a little more generous in its offerings but requires special equipment. Satellite radio requires even more equipment plus a subscription. Why do we need any of that when we’ve got a device in our pocket that either holds the bulk of our music collection already, or at the very least, has a high-speed connection to our favorite streaming service? In short, we don’t!
Currently there is no easy way to get audio from our devices to our car’s stereo system. Even those that have all the necessary hookups (whether Bluetooth or wired) still don’t have a good way of starting up our music where we left off, or picking what music we want to listen to. Remember, we’re coming from a push-button system where looking at a screen isn’t required. All the buttons and knobs are in a fixed location and you know where they are by feel. Android has got to integrate into this environment so it “just works”.
Navigation & Smart Traffic
Here’s where Android could really come into its own. Regardless of whether you’re a fan of Waze, Google Maps, CoPilot, or some other navigation system, having a digital navigator that can tell you how to get from point-A to point-B is the half-way point to self-driving cars.
Knowing the traffic and weather conditions around you, and being able to intelligently re-route you around wrecks, traffic jams, and poor driving conditions can not only save you time, it could save your life.
Awareness & Intelligence
Your car has lots of sensors in it. It needs some way to tell you about what’s going on besides those lights on the dash and the cryptic codes that come out of your car’s data port.
“Check Engine”? Yup, it’s still there. Now what?
That just scratches the surface. Your car could have your phone call for help when you get in a wreck — similar to OnStar, but without the subscription.
Your phone could “beacon” various information to other cars around it: how fast it’s going, if it’s going to change lanes, and if you hit the brakes suddenly. Other “intelligent” cars you could pick up on this information, verify what your car is saying through its own sensors, and take action accordingly: adjusting their speed to match yours, slowing down to let you merge, even hitting the brakes for you to avoid a collision.
All this isn’t going to come overnight, but we need to start building a set of open standards that anyone can use to let cars talk to one another.
Android In-Car Experience
No, we don’t think you should replace your car’s on-board computer with an Android-powered computer — Android isn’t designed for that, nor should it be. Android could serve as the interface between you and your car, replacing the mundane tasks that you would otherwise have to do manually, and allowing you to focus on your driving.
Who knows, the New York version might even come with a module that would honk the horn for you and flip people a digital “finger”, all so you can drive a little safer, arrive a little sooner, and do it all with comfort and convenience.
Image credit: (cc) wwarby, Back to the Future