The head of Android Auto on how Google will power the car of the near future

Google has spent the last few years working (somewhat quietly)
on an Android-based operating system for cars that doesn’t
require the use of a smartphone. Built on Android P, it’s meant
to be far more advanced than the existing version of Android
Auto, which simply projects a phone interface onto a car’s
infotainment screen. It’s also supposed to be a more robust
solution than some past infotainment systems that were built on
forked (and very old) versions of Android without much help
from Google, if any at all.

We’re about to get more familiar with this new in-car Android
experience, though. Google has struck deals with Volvo and Audi
to start rolling out these systems in 2020, and over the last
year, we’ve seen a few examples of what they will look like.

Get ready for true Google-built in-car systems

This new Android-based system would offer the benefits of
modern Android Auto (like access to the automotive-approved app
ecosystem on the Google Play Store). It will tap into a car’s
system-level operations, meaning you could ask Google Assistant
to turn on the heat, turn off the seat warmers, or even book
maintenance appointments. The system is also customizable to
suit carmakers’ differing styles, giving them more control than
they get with projected Android Auto (or Apple’s CarPlay, for
that matter).

This opens up all sorts of interesting new questions about the
future of in-car infotainment systems. Google’s had its share
of platform battles in the past. Is this another new frontier
in that fight? How much of a sea change are we in for? And how
does Google view these multiple, disparate versions of Android
in the car? I sat down with Patrick Brady, the head of Android
Auto, at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month hash
it all out. We started by catching up on where projected
Android Auto is today, but we eventually talked about
everything from bringing the tech to motorcycles to making
aftermarket systems with native Android and much more.

Also, to be clear, Google tells me it refers to this new
platform as both “embedded” or “native” Android
and “embedded” or “native” Android Auto, though it
prefers the former — or more simply, “powered by Android.”
(Brady and I use some of these terms interchangeably.)

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for
clarity.

Patrick Brady: For Android Auto, what we call
our “projected solution,” where Android Auto’s running on your
phone and connects to a compatible car, I think adoption is not
really the question at this point. And we’re now at a point
where we’ve worked with over 50 different car brands and
getting it launched everywhere. We’ve expanded our geographic
coverage. So just a short time ago, we launched in South Korea,
we launched in Taiwan, we launched in South Africa and several
other countries, and we’ll continue to do that and make it more
available. The big focus now is going to be on improving the
core experience. And so we, just a while ago, in November last
year, it seems like decades ago, right?

Sean O’Kane: Monday feels like decades ago at this
point, honestly.

We launched an update that improves the media experience.
Traditionally, we had kind of two models for playing media. You
could talk to the Assistant and have it play something for you.
And that’s great for when you know what you want to play. But
sometimes you’re thinking, “Oh I want to play Coldplay, but I
can’t remember the name of the album.” Then we had browsing,
but in a car, that’s obviously not ideal for accessing your
full catalog because you just can’t go through that depth of
content while you’re driving. So back in November, we launched
something where now when you search for something, if I say,
“play Coldplay,” or even “play jazz,” we start playing
something, but we also give you the ability to pivot into other
categorized content that the app provides.

So if you want to play something on Spotify, and you say “play
Coldplay,” it will start playing but then show you “here’s the
list of their albums, and here’s their top songs.” And we’ve
found that’s actually reducing the amount that users are
browsing in the car, which is a good thing, and it’s helping
them access the content they want in a more safe and seamless
way.

There’s several other things like that. Wireless we’re very
excited about. Obviously, it has launched in aftermarket units
today. But we’re excited about getting that out with carmakers
in embedded systems shortly. And then we’ll be doing kind of a
big UI refresh that we teased at Google I/O last year that
takes advantage of some of the larger screens we’re seeing in
cars today.

Last year, we showed it in a Range Rover Velar that has a super
wide screen, and so now we can actually enable you to see a
full Google Maps view with the map and turn by turn. But also
next to that, it’ll show whatever’s playing on YouTube Music or
Spotify or whatever it might be and allow you to control that.
So you don’t have to switch between the two. And there’s a few
other things we’re doing in the system UI to really make it
blend better with the in-car environment and again take
advantage of the different form factors and screens.

Does that present any challenges? Because for the
tech-obsessed, it’s nice to see these car manufacturers coming
out with bigger screens, and we’re not at a point where we’re
doing resistive touchscreens anymore really. The technology’s
catching up. Whether or not you really love having a giant
screen in your car is a separate conversation. But does that
present a challenge in having all of these form factors, or do
you have that pretty well figured out at this point?

The screen size and the orientation and shape is one
complexity. But then there’s also — Acura has touchpad, right?
You have relative and you have absolute touchpad. There’s
rotary controllers. You have touchscreens. You have all these
different input methods. So it definitely is a challenge. You
know we have motorcycle manufacturers that want to ship Android
Auto, and they’re going to be just driven with a D-pad.

Google is working on bringing Android Auto to
motorcycles

Yeah, there’s that
Honda bike with CarPlay
. I still
really want to try that out.

Yeah, so we’re talking with Honda, and we’re working on that.
So it is complex. I think the good news is that it pushes you
to create a simpler system. And so some of what we’ll be
rolling out over the course of the next six months in 2019 are
simplifications of the system that I think will help it adapt
to the different screen shapes and sizes, to the different
input methods. But also, at the end of the day, I think it will
make it more intuitive and useful for users. So we’re really
excited about that.

So that’s on the classic project, the Android Auto-projected
solution. The other thing we’re seeing is carmakers across the
board, and you talked about Volvo, we’ve also signed on
Renault-Nissan. And there’s a bunch of other companies we’re
talking to about adopting Android
as their built-in infotainment system in the car
. As they
all work to replace all the mechanical knobs and dials with
digital surfaces, software obviously becomes much more
important. We’re seeing larger and larger screens. We’re seeing
your HVAC controls and your FM radio controls and everything is
moving onto the screen with software. And they need a platform
to power that. And they also see the consumer demand for things
like CarPlay and Android Auto, and the carmakers want to enable
that digital ecosystem in their embedded offering, in their
infotainment system.

CarPlay and Anrdoid Auto are great in that they allow you to
bring your digital ecosystem into the car. But it does present
to you as a consumer that you have two worlds, you need to deal
with the native system and your smartphone at the same time.
That’s not necessarily what consumers asked for. But it’s one
way of delivering that. What we’re really excited about with
the embedded offering for Android in the car is now we can
create a single blended system, where you have Spotify and you
have your HVAC controls and you have the backup camera and you
have Google Maps or Waze, and it’s all one system. It takes
advantage of the entire digital surface in the car. And we
think we’re going to be able to strike a great balance where it
feels naturally integrated into the car.

“As [carmakers] replace all the mechanical knobs and dials
with digital surfaces, software obviously becomes much more
important.”

As hard as this may be to actually make happen,
something that would encourage people to leave their phones in
their pockets the whole time.

Yeah, absolutely. That’s one of our goals.

And without the potential wonkiness of wireless
projection.

Yeah. And literally we have a vision slide internally that
talks through a whole bunch of things of what cockpit
experience we want to enable in the future, and the last
statement is “I never feel the need to reach for my Phone.” And
that really is, I think, a key thing. So we’re super excited
about that. We have just tremendous adoption for Android as an
embedded system in the car. So we have carmakers now that
represent over 50 percent of annual car volumes that are
adopting Android as the built-in system.

Wholly? Not just Android Auto native?

So Android wholly as a system. There have been partners,
companies like
Honda
and General Motors, who’ve taken Android in the past
and shipped it in automotive. But they had to kind of fork it
and make it appropriate for automotive. We’ve spent a ton of
time, we’ve invested in building Android to be a turnkey
solution for automotive, so that it has everything, you know,
the vehicle subsystem control and whatnot. But also all the
support for Android Auto apps. So the thousands of apps we
have, media, messaging, and whatnot, in the Android Auto
solution today will run seamlessly on these native systems. And
we have carmakers now adopting that.

I just want to make sure I’m clear on the distinction
of how you view, say, what’s going to be in Volvo as a native
Android Auto system, an embedded system, versus a forked
version, something that was built on Android.

The native Android system could have access to things like a
car’s advanced driver assistance features

You know, the main distinction will be you’ll actually have the
app ecosystem. That is a huge thing. And also, I think you’ll
see a more modern system come out of it because, like I said,
we’re adding capabilities and features into Android to make it
more appropriate for automotive. And, you know, comparing
Android Auto projected when it’s running on your smartphone to
something run natively in the car — now we can start lining up
the ADAS (advanced driver assistance system) with Google Maps
so that they have a shared view of the world. You have better
support for the multiple different screens and modern cars,
cluster support, and whatnot. I’m pretty excited about it. It’s
going to be a pretty big leap, I think.

Do you expect, as you move forward, that those sorts of
built-on-Android-but-forked infotainment systems die out, or do
you think they’ll still be around for a while?

I think they’ll migrate over to kind of the baseline. That
wasn’t necessarily a choice they had at that time. When they
chose, as General Motors or Honda chose Android as a system
back four or five years ago, Google wasn’t working on Android
as an embedded system. And so they had to go and make all the
changes themselves, and their only real choice was to fork it.
And now I think it’s a pretty clear choice to just take what’s
available, open source, free, and feature-rich.

Especially around the Tesla Model 3, there’s been a lot
of conjecture about how much of the control scheme for the
functions of the car do we want to put behind the touchscreen
as opposed to physical controls.

Arguably, they’ve gone a little overboard in some cases, but…

I think so. I haven’t spent enough time with it to say
for sure. But that’s my instinct, that when you’re a couple of
taps away from the wipers, something about that feels a little
weird. But does Google have a preference for that? I think it
obviously behooves you to build the capability to tap into all
of these functions. But do you care either way?

No, we don’t really care. I think we certainly want all of the
common features to be readily available. We certainly want them
accessible through software because you can do things now with
Google Assistant and some of these cars that we’re integrated
with. You can say “turn on the wipers.” Right? So you don’t
want a physical switch because then you actually have to
actuate that through software.

Or you run into that problem where you’ve activated it,
and it’s like the dual light switch problem.

Exactly. “Is it on? Is it off?” Yes, so you run into that, and
you need to be conscious about it. But you want these things to
be accessible. And as screens get larger, it becomes easier for
carmakers to have larger and more immediately accessible tap
targets for the primary functions.

Do you have a baseline of specs or something to show
the automakers and say, “If you want to do this, this is at
least what you have to be able to handle?”

Similar to phones, we have a compatibility spec that says, “You
can take Android, you can ship it as an automotive platform,
but you need to fulfill these things.” But just like on phones,
I think a lot of people assume that’s very stringent, and that
we say, “You must have a home screen that presents apps in a
grid,” or something like that. That’s not the case. We want to
leave carmakers, or mobile manufacturers, whoever it may be, a
lot of room to innovate as long as it doesn’t break some of the
core tenets of the platform as they apply to consumers and
developers. So that’s really where we try to draw a hard line.

With
the Volvo demo this past year
, I
think we finally got to see what you had

talked about the year before
. But
it still looked very much like Sensus, and anybody who had used
a Volvo infotainment system would feel right at home with it.
And yet, you have all of these extra capabilities, and it gives
you that idea of how it could work together.

Yeah, exactly. And honestly, we showed an Audi Q8 concept
running Android as well. And the cool thing for us was Spotify
didn’t have to change their app at all. They install it on both
of those. It shows up in the Audi, and it looks very much like
an Audi. And it shows up in the Volvo, and it looks very much
like it was designed specifically for Sensus. We wanted to show
the industry and show consumers that you can create that
differentiation that really, we think, not only carmakers want,
but consumers want. Like I said, it feels natural in that
environment. But it still keeps things familiar, especially for
developers, so that it’s one experience across the board. You
have all your apps.

You mentioned briefly this idea of, in this system,
learning how the driver uses it and maybe responding to that.
Is that something you expect to push with this?

Yeah, I think that’s not unique to our automotive efforts. With
Google Assistant and everything we’re doing, we’re trying to
create a more personalized experience that can be more helpful.
So, similarly, in the car, we want to do the same thing.
Something we already do in Android Auto today is, if you drive
frequently… on Fridays, I go and drop my daughter off at
school. It should learn that, right? So automatically suggest
that route as I’m getting in the car. But you need to do it in
a privacy-sensitive way, right? If I lend my car to someone, I
don’t necessarily want them to see where these things are.
Especially in cars, which are much different than mobile phones
and other things, cars are fundamentally shared devices. And so
we’re really thinking about that experience, and how do you
trade off things like a highly personalized experience with
user privacy to make sure that it’s protected.

Personally, I get to the point with some of these
things where, especially on feeds, I’m apprehensive to do
things because I don’t want to mess up the algorithm and make
other things harder to find. I’ve talked to some other
automotive startups and car manufacturers that are thinking
about how to revolutionize the interior of a car. That’s one of
the things that they always talk about, and it sounds like
they’re trying to push it a bit farther, like, “We always want
to know what you’re going to tap.” And I always worry about
that. I want it to suggest some things, but I don’t want it to
be completely fluid because then I never know what to trust or
what is going to show up.

You have no muscle memory, right? Yeah, so it’s a balance. We
try to create places in the platform for this. For example, in
Android today, you can customize your home screen, and this is
very predictable. I tap on things, and I know exactly where
these apps are. When I swipe up, it tries to predict what
things I’ll tap, and it has suggested actions. We try to find
places in the UI where we can introduce prediction without
shifting the entire UI to be prediction-based because then it
completely compromises muscle memory and whatnot. So it’s a
trade-off. In automotive, I don’t think we’re doing anything
different than what we’re trying to do on phones there because
it’s the same problem across the board.

Native Android will come to aftermarket systems, according
to Brady

As you move forward with embedded Android in cars, is
that something that we can also expect to see come to
third-party / aftermarket manufacturers? Eventually being able
to put a system in your car that isn’t just Android Auto
compatible, but runs native Android Auto?

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

Is that something you’ve already started working on? Or
are you sticking to starting with the manufacturers?

We’re starting with the manufacturers for the most part, for a
variety of reasons. One of the primary benefits of building it
into the car is the deep integration you can have with all the
advanced systems in new cars. And those aftermarket systems,
there’s only so much integration they can actually do in those
systems. And so to really stretch the platform and take
advantage of all the deep integration, you work with the
carmakers.

A couple of years ago, we started to see Android Auto
come into the car, CarPlay come into the car. And there was
this tension of like, will the automakers want to accept it?
Some were holdouts, but it’s been resolved for the majority of
them. Now that we’re talking about native systems, are we set
up for another sort of platform war? We don’t know that Apple
wants to do the same thing, but we have Automotive Grade Linux,
LG is

teasing a webOS system
. Does it
feel like we might have that same sort of competition start
happening in the car?

It’s hard to say. One thing we’ve found is it’s very hard to
create a platform. Anyone can create an operating system, but
it’s hard to create a platform that is relevant to developers
and gets developer attention. So if you want to build something
that has connected services, you need developers. And
developers chase the platforms that have the highest volumes
because that’s where they get users, right? We find this, even
though we’re shipping Android, it’s Android Automotive, and we
need to get developers to think about building the automotive
app, not just their smartphone.

“Anyone can create an operating system, but it’s hard to
create a platform that is relevant to developers.”

Automotive is way smaller than mobile. And we know how hard it
can be to launch a new ecosystem. So I don’t know that we’ll
see a huge proliferation of platforms competing there, but
certainly, there will be multiple options. You mentioned
Automotive Grade Linux. I think you’re seeing the industry move
toward open-source, more modern platforms because the carmakers
want to bring more of that in-house and kind of take more
ownership of the software, and I think that’s a good thing,
that they’re investing more in software, because it will be
more important in the car going forward.

The other cool thing, I think, when we were doing CarPlay or
Android Auto, it was kind of one system integrating with
another. Now, we’re working with carmakers on the same system.
So when we’re working with Volvo and Polestar, we’re working
with them together to make the best possible experience. And we
did to an extent with Android Auto, and as Apple does with
CarPlay, but it’s not quite the same. You’re not building one
system together.

When you start talking to these automakers, as you’re
sort of approaching the idea of coming together, but you’re not
there yet, how do you pitch them on this? What are the things
that you say? “Here’s our vision for it, here’s why we think it
would be a great idea for you to use this to build your next
infotainment system” or something?

It’s pretty interesting. A lot of times, we sit down with
carmakers, and they pitch their vision for the connected car of
the future, and we pitch ours. And it’s literally the same
thing. I think what people want is you never feel the need to
reach for your phone. But you want to be able to get into a car
and have your digital life flow seamlessly and take advantage
of all of the digital real estate in the car, and feel like
it’s naturally integrated and it’s all there, available for
you. You don’t plug in, you don’t sign in. It’s just there. And
when you leave, it goes with you. And it gets better as you use
it. That’s very much a shared vision.

So we start from there, and then it’s a matter of how do you
enable that? With Android, the way we’ve positioned it is,
we’re building the platform and giving it away for free because
we want to create — just like we did on mobile phones — we want
to accelerate innovation in the space and make it easier for
everyone to focus on innovation through connected services and
less on integration. Back in the day, in smartphones, we had
hundreds of different versions of Google Maps for the different
phone platforms. And as you can imagine, it’s pretty hard to
innovate at pace there.

You create a common platform like the web or like Android on
phones, and now all device makers can adopt it and immediately
get access to all of these different apps, and all the app
providers or connected service providers just build it once and
have access to all these devices. So we’re doing the same thing
in automotive, and we’re really focused on making it the best
possible solution for carmakers. And so we tell them, “Look, if
you choose not to go with Android, we want to know why because
it means our job’s not done, and we need to go invest and fill
those gaps.”

Are these exclusive contracts?

No.

So if Volvo felt like some other solution might suit a
certain car better, they could go do that while the other ones
still have Android Auto?

Yeah. I would say, by and large, though, that the carmakers…
it’s not like back in smartphones, where you could afford, as a
device manufacturer to have different phones running different
systems. I think all the way back to, like, HTC in the early
days. They had the HTC Touch or something running Windows, and
they had a whole bunch of those, and they had their Android
line. Carmakers generally don’t do that. Because the investment
in these infotainment platforms is so high that doing multiple
different versions of them just increases their cost, and
R&D, and time to market, and maintenance, and everything,
so they tend to kind of go all in on one. But, short version:
no, the contracts aren’t exclusive.

When you started to reveal more information at this
past Google I/O about how this is going to work, one of the
questions we asked and got answered was if this precludes
CarPlay from working. The answer was “of course CarPlay will
work.”

Yes.

Will there be that kind of openness for other competing
services, whether it’s like Amazon Alexa or other things like
that? Are you committed to staying open with the
platform?

Yeah, absolutely. Because when someone goes and buys a Volvo,
we don’t know what services they have at home. And again, the
vision is not to bring their Google digital life into the car.
It’s to bring your digital life into the car. So just like on
Android phones today, Facebook, whatever other other services
are out there are, they’re crucial to have as part of your
platform experience. I think, in the car, the main challenge is
how do you ensure that these apps are are designed for
automotive and are safe to use in the car. So I don’t think it
will be as open as what we have on smartphones because there’s
just a higher bar. But we’re trying to make it as open as
possible.

Yeah, because then you start getting into questions
about security, and not just like hacking security, but
stability for the car, and safety for the car.

Exactly.

At a high level, what are some of the things that you
discuss with a manufacturer like Volvo when it comes to that
stuff? About making sure that you have something in place that
is going to offer that stability for the car, that
safety.

We have a lot of conversations with carmakers on how we’re
going to secure the platform and the ecosystem. All the apps
that are there are uploaded to the Play Store for Automotive go
through extensive review to make sure we’re not going to
introduce anything that’s potentially harmful. So we talk
through all of that.

But a lot of it comes down to how we design the experience as
well. So, you know, in a car today, media apps don’t control
every pixel on the screen. They fill in a template that we
provide. And we give them as much control as possible. So
Spotify can say, “Hey, I want you to present this, our
suggested features in a grid instead of a list, and here’s how
I want this one in a list, and here’s my iconography.” So you
can more or less reconstruct their app. But you can do it in a
way that adapts to the screen size and input controls and
things like that. It reduces development complexity for them,
but it also manages driver distraction and safety and security
and things like that because we’re running it more of a slim
box. And so I would say we’ve intentionally designed the system
from the ground up to manage for that.

On a similar note, what do over-the-air updates look
like in a system like this? If an automaker is going to use
your platform but wants to be an automaker that offers
over-the-air updates, is there room for them to do their own
thing to update their UI or something like that?

Yeah. I mean, we want them to, I think all carmakers… This
isn’t even a point of discussion. All carmakers are moving to
building connectivity, and they’re moving to software
over-the-air updates. It’s what consumers want. I think it’s
what the carmakers want. They can now push fixes for issues
instead of having to have everyone come into a dealership. So
that’s the trend, that’s where things are going regardless. And
we love it because it means, again, we want to increase the
pace of innovation. So it’s not just fixing bugs and things
like that, or security issues, but also delivering new
features.

We’re working with — especially with the partners that we’re
working most closely with like Volvo and Renault-Nissan and
some others — working with them to ensure that, even if they
ship their initial system on Android P, they can very quickly
upgrade to Android Q, to Android R, and keep those things up to
date, and push them out to users over the air.

How do you expect those updates to happen? If someone
buys a car with native Android, and the automaker wants to push
updates, is that something that is going to come through the
Google side of things?

It depends. Just like on phones, we have our own over-the-air
update service that deploys updates through Google’s global
data center network. Some partners use that, some partners use
their own. There’s all sorts of different alternatives, even in
the mobile industry, that people use.

As cars go digital and there are finally infotainment
systems that are up to snuff, we’re starting to hear about
services as a potential new revenue model for these automakers.
Is that something you’ve talked about with these car
companies?

Oh, for sure, yeah. You see them experimenting with all sorts
of different things. I think definitely having just a connected
car, in general, is something that is a huge opportunity for
them to do all sorts of different things. And you see carmakers
going into usage-based insurance, you see them going into fleet
management, you see them going into in-car delivery
partnerships where Amazon can deliver a package to your car
because it remotely unlocks, and things like that. So it’s
definitely interesting. You know where we can, we try to enable
them for these things, but we’ll see what sticks with the
consumers, and what really takes off.

Is that something that you would do some sort of
revenue split for, or is that something you would stay away
from since you’re platform level?

We’re focused on the platform right now, and the Google
services, and things like that. A lot of those, especially
around shared mobility, and things like that, that’s a place I
think the carmakers are best positioned.

On the platform competition side of things, one of the
only trends I feel like I’ve seen at the show this year is big
media companies trying to find ways to do interesting things in
cars. I think we’ve all been dreaming about what kinds of
entertainment we might have in a fully self-driving car, but
now we’re starting to see some more near-term stuff. For
example, Audi

did this thing with Disney where they are trying to
imagine a VR experience in the back seat of a car

in a ride-hailing setting. Intel showed off a thing
with Warner Bros. that’s similar. Do you guys have any skin in
the game of wanting to bring media experiences to the car, even
to the smaller screens?

We’re not focused on the smaller screens. I think definitely,
as you shift to autonomy, or you shift to just higher-capacity
cars, like minivans and things that have rear seat
entertainment, it’s definitely interesting. But I’d say it’s
not a primary focus for us right now. It’s not clear where that
space is going to go. If you remember airlines all building
screens into the back of every seat, now you walk up and down
the aisle and everyone’s watching something on their own
personal device. And so it’s not clear to me where that’s going
to go. But it’s really cool to see the experimentation and
innovation going on now.

“Projection’s not going away.”

Pulling way back to where we started. How do you see
this new venture for Android Auto moving forward alongside the
projected stuff? Do you expect them to run sort of parallel for
a while?

Projection’s not going away. I mean we’re in a serious number
of cars on the road now. So it’s a big thing. And it’s
something that now consumers are making purchase decisions
around, and that they expect to be there. If you remember when
Bluetooth was first rolling out in cars, now it’s like, you
would never buy a car without Bluetooth.

Or even rentals. I realized the saturation point we had
gotten to when every rental car I get into now has CarPlay or
Android Auto compatibility.

And it’s actually a great use case for those, right? Because
you get in, you plug in, you have your stuff there in a car
you’re not even familiar with, and that you’re only going to
use for a day or two, or whatever it might be.

Other than the part where it wants my contact
list.

Yeah. So projection is definitely there. I also think that we
have a future where having both… if I have an Android phone
that has apps installed that are Android Auto-capable…
because Spotify, and WhatsApp, and Waze, all of their Android
Auto capabilities are built into the smartphone app here.
Imagine I get into a rental car, and it runs Android as an
embedded system. We can create an even more seamless experience
where you’re not necessarily flipping between two different
systems like you do today with Android Auto and CarPlay. It’s
all one system, but the apps show up. And you as a consumer,
you don’t know or care if they are running in the car or if are
they running on my phone. You never need to install them in the
car. You’re not logging into them in the car. They’re actually
running on your phone, but they show up there. We’re super
excited about that. And again, I think that’s really taking the
kind of best of both worlds there. The built-in, kind of
seamless experience in the embedded system, and the highly
personalized and continuous nature of the mobile phone as
something that you bring with you everywhere you go, it knows
you better than any other device.

That’s like the ultimate platform move, where you’re
letting the apps get in front of the user and speak for
themselves, and it doesn’t matter where they’re coming
from.

And I don’t think that’s necessarily unique to cars. I show up
at the Wynn here, where I’m staying, and I get into the room,
and I’m like, “Oh I’d love to continue watching that movie I
was watching, and it’s like, “Oh, well I could watch it on
here, but I have this gorgeous TV.” Things like Google Cast and
other technologies are starting to make that kind of available.
But I’d love if I could just walk into the room and turn on the
TV and my apps from my smartphone, and my content, are
immediately there, and it knows where I was in that Netflix
show, and it’s right on the screen.

And you don’t have to bring a Chromecast with you, or
worry about logging into their smart TV or whatever. If they
even have it.

Yeah, and then you log in. I remember staying at an Airbnb, and
the check-in instructions say, “If you have an Apple account,
sign into the Apple TV,” and the check-out instructions, in big
capital letters, said, “DON’T FORGE TO SIGN OUT OF APPLE TV.”
So having a more seamless experience where you come in, and
your identity’s retained on your mobile phone, but it’s kind of
seamlessly married with all the devices around you, I think is
going to be a really powerful trend with IoT.

What does the next year look like for what you guys are
doing?

On the Android Auto side, on projection, we have a lot of new
things coming, including the UI revamp, like I said, to take
advantage of the larger, taller screens, things like that.
We’re super excited about that. On the embedded side, working
with Volvo and Polestar and Renault-Nissan and a couple other
companies that haven’t yet announced, to get the first cars to
production. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re
pretty excited about it. We hope to show some more previews and
sneak peeks of those coming up at Google I/O in May, and then
we’ll be heads down getting those ready for end-of-year
release.

What do you expect that post launch couple weeks,
couple months to be like?

I hope to be on vacation. [Laughs] It’s really the
lead-up to the launch that will be a lot of work for us. It’s
interesting, too. I’ve worked at mobile phones, been working on
Android for a while. You finish the Pixel 3, or whatever phone,
put it on sale, and you sell tons of them. And cars, obviously
you’re not selling millions of them on day one. So we’ll have
kind of a slow ramp through the industry, but we’re pretty
excited about the user experience and the benchmark that we’re
going to set with those initial cars. And we know hope to
really make that a showcase for what a modern digital
experience in a car can be.

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