Google is currently offering two different platforms for drivers who want to expand the Android experience beyond the screen of the mobile device.
First and foremost, it’s Android Auto, which mirrors the smartphone (and therefore requires an Android device to be connected to a compatible head unit) and allows users to run any app that offers support for the car-optimized experience.
Second of all, it’s Android Automotive, a fully-featured operating system that’s installed by Google from the factory as part of partnerships with various carmakers, including Volvo and Polestar. Android Automotive offers deeper integration with Google services and doesn’t require a smartphone to work, as it runs natively on the hardware available in the car.
One of the differences between the two (and also the one that might be causing legal trouble for Google) is how the search giant offers Google Maps on these platforms.
While on Android Auto users can replace Google Maps with any supported app they wish, be it Waze, Sygic, or HERE software, things are completely different on Android Automotive. Google Maps is the one and only navigation app, and Google claims this is because mixing the experience with other software could lead to errors. And bundling Google Maps with the rest of Google services guarantees an experience that’s as smooth as possible, it says.
The U.S. Department of Justice doesn’t seem to be convinced, though. A probe that was first proposed back in 2020 is brought back on the radar, Reuters claims, with the DOJ trying to figure out once again if Google’s approach regarding Android Automotive is an uncompetitive practice or not.
In other words, Google could end up under investigation because it prevents carmakers (and eventually users too) from switching to another navigation app on Android Automotive.
While the number of carmakers that end up using Android Automotive is slowly but surely growing, there’s no doubt many of them would enjoy more freedom when it comes to the OS. Going for other navigation software makes sense for them, especially as some have the necessary resources to provide customers with alternative solutions, so it’ll certainly be interesting to see how the case develops in the coming years.