Patrick Brady Director of Engineering, Android, reported on Android’s activities for automobiles during the Google I/O, 2014 event. Brady’s presentation introduced Android for Auto, which might be more favorably titled Android smart phone for auto, based on the features demonstrated during this segment of the Keynote presentation.
Brady summed up the burning consumer needs for a solution like Android for auto with reference to the well publicized problem of widespread public disdain for traffic laws prohibiting the manual use of smart phones in cars: “Even though it’s unsafe and illegal, people use their phones while driving.” (quoted from a presentation on Android for Auto, included in the Keynote presentation of the Google I/O 2014 event, by Patrick Brady, Director of Engineering, Android)
Google is working to solve this problem. “In January, we announced the Open Automotive Alliance to make the connected car a reality . . . and today we are happy to announce Android auto”. Brady claims Android for Auto includes a ” . . . [redesigned] . . . Android platform for automotive, [which makes] it easier and safer to use the connected apps and services drivers want in the car.” (ibid)
How did Android arrive at this approach? “We looked at what people do with their phones in their cars, today and these things stood out to us: navigation, communication, music and other forms of streaming media. . . . Android auto puts these front and center.” (ibid)
Brady then claims the entire platform can be managed via voice commands. In this writer’s opinion, this approach is the right one, assuming Google has truly implemented it. But the demonstration provided during this segment was long on presenting how a driver (played by the current product manager for Android for Auto, Andrew Brenner) can use a dashboard screen to manage Android for Auto features, and short on the potential represented by the current voice control feature set.
Brenner demonstrated how Android for Auto can be used to read text messages, and then transform voice syntax into a text message to send a reply. But this feature is already available from Windows Phone 8, as well.
If this demonstration is consistent with the rest of Android’s architecture for the Android for Auto platform, the product has been designed, almost in entirety, to bolt on Android smart phone features to the intelligence systems used in cars. In this writer’s opinion, opting for this architecture for a platform, which, in theory, could be used for a much richer set of functionality, is not a right step forward. When the rudimentary set of voice commands available with the current version of the platform is brought into the picture, the platform looks even less promising.
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