This Is How General Motors Wants to Make Users Forget About Android Auto

Android Auto vs. Android Automotive 8 photos
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
Android Automotive on the 2022 Hummer EVAndroid Automotive on the 2022 Hummer EVAndroid Automotive on the 2022 Hummer EVAndroid Automotive on the 2022 Hummer EVAndroid Automotive on the 2022 Hummer EVAndroid Automotive on the 2022 Hummer EVAndroid Automotive on the 2022 Hummer EV
If you’re one of the lucky peeps who managed to get their hands on a new car these days (because, you know, the chip shortage keeps waiting times at ridiculous levels), you are probably looking for ways to make the most out of the technology inside the cabin.
You’re not alone. New-generation cars come with an army of sensors and significantly upgraded infotainment systems, especially as the trend seems to be pushing the industry closer to an all-screen approach.

The connectivity side of new vehicles is most often ensured by Android Auto and CarPlay, and this isn’t by any means a surprise. Everybody has a phone in their pocket, so mirroring the mobile experience to the larger screen inside the cabin just makes sense.

Kantar data claims iPhones are the dominating mobile devices in the United States with a 51 percent market share, while rival Android is pretty close with the remaining 49 percent.

As such, the adoption of these systems skyrocketed in the last few years. Data provided by Google in early 2022 indicated Android Auto was installed in 150 million cars – the figure didn’t take into account aftermarket upgrades where car owners installed third-party media receivers. The number of Android Auto users is, therefore, much higher, and this proves that car owners are slowly but surely stepping away from the pre-loaded infotainment experience installed in their vehicles.

But while the adoption of Android Auto is on the rise, Google seems ready for the next step in its strategy to conquer the automotive world. Truth be told, carmakers are still reluctant to go all-in on Google software in their cars, so this push is progressing slowly.

Android Automotive is currently spearheading Google’s car ambitions, and the search behemoth is working permanently with auto manufacturers, specifically on bringing the operating system to more models.

General Motors is one of the first high-profile names to bet big on Android Automotive.

Android Automotive on the 2022 Hummer EV
Photo: Screenshot from GMC Hummer EV channel

Android Auto versus Android Automotive

The biggest difference between the two systems comes down to the way users can run them in their cars.

Android Auto is essentially an extension of the Android experience on a mobile device. To run the app, users need to connect their phones to a compatible head unit either wirelessly or with a cable.

Android Automotive comes pre-loaded on the infotainment systems and is the one powering not only the navigation but also a plethora of car functions, including the air conditioning system. As such, users can control certain car settings, like the temperature inside, using voice commands via Google Assistant. Google Maps also gets access to vehicle data, so it can provide routing based on the current range and suggest charging stops whenever needed.

Android Automotive doesn’t require a mobile device to run, but users can log in with Google accounts to access their data, such as the favorite locations stored in Google Maps.

Android Automotive on the 2022 Hummer EV
Photo: Screenshot from GMC Hummer EV channel

The benefits of using Android Automotive

Users are getting more advanced capabilities in their cars, but Android Automotive also comes with significant benefits for both Google and automakers.

The search company gets access to more vehicle data, something that has irked BMW, as the German carmaker wants to have full control of the information it shares with others.

For auto manufacturers, embracing Android Automotive is one easy way not only to provide drivers with a familiar experience behind the wheel but also to reduce the burden on their software development firms. Google ships updates regularly and is the one responsible for fixes and patches.

At the same time, every company that uses Android Automotive has the liberty of customizing the way the operating system looks just the way it wants. This way, the brand identity is preserved, so while Android Automotive is basically the same in all cars that run it, the skin the parent companies drop on top of it makes it look unique.

Android Automotive on the 2022 Hummer EV
Photo: Screenshot from GMC Hummer EV channel

General Motors’ big bet on Android Automotive

General Motors is already offering Android Auto in the majority of its cars, but at the same time, the company seems ready to make the transition to Android Automotive as well. The switch takes place gradually and probably slower than Google hoped, but even so, having the American carmaker embrace its operating system is a big win for the search giant anyway.

At this point, the following General Motors models are fitted with Android Automotive:
  • MY 2022: Chevrolet Suburban, Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC HUMMER EV, GMC Yukon, GMC Yukon XL, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra
  • MY 2023: Cadillac LYRIQ

Just like the rest of the carmakers that adopted this platform, General Motors also developed its very own skin for Android Automotive, and the result is a very straightforward UI that makes it easier for drivers to reach their apps.

General Motors wanted to push things a step further, so in order to use the built-in Google experience, drivers need an OnStar Connected Vehicle plan to unlock all services.

Android Automotive on the 2022 Hummer EV
Photo: Screenshot from GMC Hummer EV channel
Once customers get a subscription, they are provided with a series of extras, including access to in-vehicle apps like Spotify and Pandora, but also real-time navigation, and a companion mobile app that lets users connect to their cars.

The Connected Vehicle Plan is available for $24.99 per month and includes unlimited in-vehicle data, remote vehicle access, and in-vehicle apps. The Premium Plan costs $49.99 and adds emergency services and the OnStar Guardian app, which boasts road assistance, GPS tracking, and emergency help.

The main shortcoming is more than obvious. Without paying for a service plan, Android Automotive becomes just a basic platform, so drivers are just going back to the standard Android Auto experience. Google Assistant, Google Maps, and apps on Google Play require a service plan on Android Automotive.

General Motors is therefore trying to use Android Automotive as a money-making machine, tying the operating system to a series of in-house developed capabilities and hoping that users would agree to pay extra to upgrade from Android Auto. This is a risky strategy, but given the benefits provided by Android Automotive, General Motors could be playing the right card here.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
Bogdan Popa profile photo

Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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