WIf you’re driving a reasonably new car with advanced communications technology, you’ll likely have Apple’s Carplay or Google’s Android Auto on board. Both systems are based on the idea of displaying data from a smartphone on the vehicle’s onboard display. As a rule, the mobile phone is connected by cable, and recently this has become possible wirelessly. The on-screen mini menu shows the selected apps, usually Carplay or Android Auto when it comes to navigation. Map and navigation instructions are sent to the mobile phone via mobile phone connections and then transmitted to the screen. This way, no built-in navigation is required, and you can also see new calendar entries or messages on the screen on the panel.
Both systems are connected to the smartphone and with a fixed connection to the mobile phone. So the next development step is clear: dispense with the smartphone and bring the world of Google or Apple straight to the car. One such system is the new Android Automotive, a fully-fledged Android operating system with mobile communications for use in vehicles only. Volvo and Polestar are the first manufacturers of its application. We tried Android Automotive on the Volvo V90. You will drive almost all new Volvo cars with Android Automotive in the future.
What matters is what plays in the middle
At first glance, the onboard display looks like any other Volvo: the 9-inch diagonal screen is oriented vertically, with a single physical menu button at the bottom, and the tenth part of the screen always shows two virtual buttons for more menus and air conditioning settings. The deciding factor is what plays in the middle: individual Android Automotive apps with smartphone-like icons.
You can sign in with your Google account and you can instantly access personal data like contact directory and calendar and use voice control to give the precise Hey Google commands you know from mobile phones or Google smart home products. If the car is used by different family members, it is recommended to create a new Google account, or each driver switches accounts when entering the car. If you do not want to send data to Google, you do not register with an account, so you do not have to use the Play Store, but you can of course use the navigation.
Apps come to the car via the Play Store, and this is where you immediately come across the first limit: every app has to be adapted to Android Automotive. Aside from Google Assistant and Google Maps, there is currently only a small selection: Spotify, YouTube Music, ARD Audio Library, Amazon, Tidal Music, a few radio apps, and Sygic navigation. Volvo contributes additional applications, for example to play Bluetooth music from a smartphone or for telephony and car functions.
You do not have to bring a smartphone. If one of them is available, then, of course, it can be connected for telephony and music playback, including iPhone. Google Maps navigation works properly, although the copilot’s blunt tone is annoying. However, there is a subtlety: the optical driving instructions are triggered in Volvo’s head-up display, which may be available, which is very convincing. You start the Google Assistant with the voice control button on the steering wheel.
The traditional Sensus Connect infotainment system is a thing of the past
With Google integration, networked devices at home can be controlled directly from the car. For example, you can turn on the light when you approach the house or wake up the vacuum cleaner robot after you leave. On the contrary, commands can be sent from the breakfast table directly to the car, for example to heat the interior on cold winter days.
Android Automotive is standard on all V90s. The traditional “Sensus Connect” infotainment system is a thing of the past. So far it costs more than 3000 euros in the V90. In this light, this progress can be welcomed. Please note that after a maximum of four years, the data contract will become due, which is subject to an additional fee. By the way, there is still no analogue from Apple for Android Automotive.
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