Android Automotive goes mainstream: A review of GM’s new infotainment system


Android Automotive, Google’s working system for automobiles, has traditionally been fairly area of interest, and solely a handful of high-profile automobiles just like the Polestar 2 have used it. Now, although, Android Automotive goes mainstream, and we’re beginning to see a number of the largest automotive producers roll out Google’s working system throughout complete lineups.

As we speak, we’re trying on the 2022 GMC Yukon, however actually, that is Basic Motors’ Android Automotive system, and you will see it rolled out throughout most of GM’s lineup sooner or later. The identical fundamental setup powers the Hummer EV1, and with all the parts-sharing that goes on at GM, count on to see this method pop up in Chevys, GMCs, Cadillacs, and Buicks. With Ford and Honda leaping into the Android Automotive ecosystem within the close to future, Google’s automotive OS will quickly be all over the place.

Let’s get the same old disclaimer out of the way in which: This text is not about Android Auto, Google’s tethered cellphone app and competitor to Apple’s CarPlay. Android Automotive, absolutely spelled out (it is typically branded as “Google Constructed-In”), means the automotive is one huge Android system. A pc runs the automotive’s infotainment system, and that pc runs Android. Even if in case you have an iPhone in your pocket, that will not change the OS your automotive runs (it does help CarPlay, although). For many fashions, shopping for Basic Motors will imply shopping for an Android Automobile. You will see an on-screen message pop up throughout setup saying, “By utilizing this automotive, you comply with Google’s phrases of service.”

The concept right here makes some form of sense. Shoppers need their automotive infotainment system to look and work extra like a smartphone does, so why not simply load the automobile with a smartphone OS? Then you will get all of the smooth-scrolling, touchscreen-based swipe navigation that folks have come to count on from a contemporary pc. Android Automotive is a Google-blessed OS, and like cellphone firms, producers like Ford, GM, and Volvo signal offers with Google to license the OS and a slew of Google apps. This automotive has onboard Google Maps, most likely the most important killer app within the automotive business. You additionally get Google Assistant voice instructions and the Google Play Retailer for automobiles, permitting easy accessibility to apps like Spotify and different media gamers.

The {hardware}: 4 screens, three working techniques

The main infotainment screen.
Enlarge / The primary infotainment display screen.

Ron Amadeo

Reviewing a automotive pc is a wierd proposition as a result of the {hardware} is at all times so previous. Automobile improvement takes round 5 years, and when the automobiles lastly get to market, the pc {hardware} is not that thrilling. The {hardware} for our Android Automobile system—which is internally referred to as “Basic Motors Infotainment 3.7,” or “gminfo37″—is a 5-year-old Intel Atom A3960 SoC with an Intel HD Graphics 500 GPU, 6GB of RAM, and 64GB of flash storage.

This isn’t uniquely a GM downside, and the identical CPU exists within the Polestar 2—although that system has solely 4GB of RAM—so we’ll classify each automobiles as “first-generation Android Automotive {hardware}.” The age of the {hardware} is notable, although. Android Automotive would not allow you to sideload apps right into a manufacturing automotive, however lookup Atom A3960 Geekbench scores, and you will see that the pc on this $78,000 automobile is barely sooner than a $35 Raspberry Pi 4. The GMC Yukon and Polestar 2 each characteristic one of many slowest CPUs you should purchase right this moment in any kind issue.

I am positive the Atom A3960 went by way of a prolonged certification course of to make sure it might probably survive the warmth and vibration of a troublesome automotive atmosphere, however it’s disappointing to see GMC transport what are principally funds PC components from 2016. Even when the five-year {hardware} delay is unavoidable, the corporate might have began with mid-range or high-end 2016 Intel {hardware} quite than low cost Atom components.

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