Volvo’s tech outsourcing gambit

The Swedish company took a more pragmatic approach, choosing to abort further development of its Sensus Connect infotainment system in favor of hooking up with Silicon Valley.

Stellantis has also adopted Android Automotive via its Uconnect 5 system. While the automaker offers non-Google services, such as Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant and TomTom navigation, Volvo’s version of Android Automotive features Google Maps, Google Assistant and the Google Play app store.

“We as a company are aiming to lead in digitalization,” Sanela Ibrovic, Volvo Cars head of connected experience, told Automotive News last week. It made sense to team up with a giant in this domain, Ibrovic said.

The timing was right. About six years ago, Google launched another version of the technology, under the slightly different name Android Auto, that relied on a smartphone to deliver media, navigation and other mobile services to a vehicle head unit. But the tech behemoth has bigger ambitions.

The new approach, Android Automotive, takes the phone out of the equation. The vehicle-based operating system also delivers deeper integration with automotive systems, such as climate control and onboard cameras.

And Android Automotive offers access to a library of third-party apps with the potential to deliver new functionality to drivers and additional revenue opportunities to automakers.

More important for carmakers is that Google’s system is future-proofed. Infotainment systems in the past were advanced at launch but failed to keep up in functionality over time.

With Android Automotive, “this is first time we could have something that continues to evolve,” Volvo Cars Product Manager Fredrik Hulth said. “We get Android updates, we get Google services updates, but our development teams are also continuing to add functionality.”

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