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GM Could be First in the Dash-board with Android

by Roger Lanctot | May 27, 2015

Who doesn’t want to be first? Everybody wants to be first. We all know that whoever is second is the first loser.

So it will be a surprise to no one if Google and GM get together at Google I/O tomorrow to announce the first cars with native Android software on-board coming in 2016. I sat in an Android infused Camaro over a year ago at GM Ventures. It did not change my life. But Google and GM no doubt hope to get a contact high from gripping and grinning on the stage at tomorrow’s event.

Will it happen? I don’t know, but it would be in keeping with GM’s inclination – like every good car company – to be the first.

GM was “first” with its Supercruise automated driving concept and first to announce an implementation of V2V technology on a MY2017 Cadillac. It’s too late to be first with CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone integration – Ferrari was first with the former and Hyundai is first with the latter.

So embedded native Android software it is. If the announcement comes tomorrow it arrives ahead of the completion of Google’s own validation process for an automotive grade version of its OS. This will be essential.

The reality is that Renault and SAIC Motors will have beaten GM to the dashboard with the Android operating system, but both of those versions were forked. What GM and Google are likely to announce tomorrow is a non-forked version of the OS.

A funny thing happens when someone goes first. Sometimes others follow and sometimes others lean back.

In the case of GM’s launch of V2V technology, only Toyota has followed suit. (Both companies are clearly hoping to mend fences with the DOT via these early V2V announcements.)

Since GM went first there is little for any other OEM to gain from announcing V2V plans and any such announcement only validates the GM announcement and GM’s leadership. No car company – except Toyota with its own DOT fences to mend – has jumped aboard the bandwagon.

Sometimes when someone else goes first others take a step back to see how things work out. It may take quite some time to see how GM’s Android decision will work out. One indication of GM’s thinking is its departure from the GenIVI Linux cooperative.  (GM's name was notably absent from the GenIVI member list at last week's Mentor Graphics event in Dearborn.  GenIVI representatives confirmed GM's departure from the organization it helped found.)

In all likelihood the supplier of the Android system will be Harman International which, not coincidentally, acquired RedBend earlier this year. The key motivation for the RedBend acquisition was to obtain its firmware updating and hypervisor technologies. These are precisely the kind of resources you would want to have handy for an Android implementation.

So, let’s see what happens tomorrow. But if I were a betting man, I’d bet on GM being the first to announce a full-blown Android OS implementation in the dashboard.  Then, again, I am not a betting man.

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