Car infotainment systems are really hit or miss. In fact, they became so complicated that we created the word “infotainment” to describe them. Depending on the brand, you can get a smooth integration of hardware and software that makes for a seamless user experience. Or a glitchy program coupled with a barely responsive touchscreen that makes you wonder why they even bothered to include it in the first place.
These differences from brand-to-brand was one of the reasons drivers celebrated the creation of Apple Car Play and Android Auto. They were universal experiences based on smartphone software — something everyone is already familiar with. Now, Ford is taking things one step further. They announced this week that their future infotainment systems will be entirely Android powered starting in 2023.
What is Android?
For those unaware, Android is the mobile operating system that runs on most non-Apple smart devices. So we’re talking Samsung phones and non-iPad tablets. It was created by Google and continues to integrate plenty of Google services directly into it.
Ford currently uses Sync 3 and Sync 4 systems in their infotainment systems. They are proprietary designs, based on QNX technology. Broken down to simple terms, they are a Linux-based OS that was originally developed by Blackberry.
Google on Board
Ford’s partnership with Google is a six-year agreement. Not only will it bring Android-based infotainment systems, but it also names Google Cloud as Ford’s official cloud provider. The new infotainment OS, which doesn’t have a name yet, should be a big step up compared to Ford’s current offering. It will likely provide an easier and more user-friendly experience when it comes to playing music, getting directions, and managing or messaging your contacts. After all, Google probably already does some of that stuff for you. Ford also mentioned that the voice-activated Google Assistant would be part of the new OS.
How is it Different From Android Auto?
Both Apple Car Play and Android Auto have one important thing in common — they rely on your smartphone to work. That is, they piggyback the data on your phone and present it in your car’s infotainment screen. This new product from Ford and Google will be completely independent from your smartphone. While your Google accounts will likely sync with ease, you won’t actually need your smartphone to access the features. This could be extra helpful for anyone who uses an iPhone, but prefers Google Maps over Apple’s GPS software.
Where To Find It
Ford says the new Android OS will start showing up in Ford and Lincoln models in 2023. You can also find a version of it in competing brands. Volvo (and their sub-brand Polestar) are also debuting an Android based infotainment OS in the near future. The all-electric Polestar 1 and 2 both feature an Android OS.
If you’re not into Google services, you’re not stuck. Ford says they will continue to include Apple Carplay and access to Amazon Alexa as supported third-party features in their vehicles.