Android scores huge infotainment win with world's biggest auto alliance

Google's Android will power the new infotainment systems of Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi cars, with the huge automaker alliance announcing the huge deal today. The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance is the world's largest automotive group, collectively responsible for 10.6 million vehicle sales last year.

As of 2021, those vehicles will begin to have dashboards powered by Google's Android operating system. Part of the so-called Alliance 2022 mid-term plan, it's picks up the reins of the automaker's pledge to make more of cloud-based services and outfit more cars with live connectivity.

For that, both Android and Google's cloud services will be called upon. The new version of the infotainment system will use Google Maps for turn-by-turn navigation, along with the Google Assistant for voice recognition and speech commands. Calls and texts, multimedia playback, and finding information will all be supported.

Meanwhile, access to the Google Play Store will allow the system to be upgraded with third-party apps. Importantly, this won't just be an Android head-unit grafted into cars. Instead Android will be tightly integrated with the car's own systems, so that drivers will be able to control the vehicle's functions through the Assistant.

The underlying OS may be the same, but the way it's presented to drivers will vary. The Alliance says that each automaker brand will be able to customize the interface to suit each vehicle, including adding specific features depending on the car. It'll also be "compatible with devices running other operating systems, such as Apple iOS," the automakers say, though it's unclear at this stage whether that includes Apple CarPlay support.

More practically, the connected cars will allow for new management of the vehicles, as well as easier upgrades. There'll be support for over-the-air updates and remote diagnostics, with the Alliance Intelligent Cloud supporting data management and more. By the end of 2022, Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi aim to have twelve new zero-emission electric vehicles on the road.

While it may be Android's biggest win in the dashboard, it's not Google's first. The company announced a deal with Volvo back in May 2017, and said this year that the same Google Maps, Assistant, and Play Store functionality would be coming to the automaker "in a couple of years".