Yesterday, Android Police was in San Jose checking out some nifty things at NVIDIA's 2013 GPU Technology Conference. At one of the events, the Tegra team showed off a few prototypes of automotive dashboards they're hoping to put into cars of the future.

The HMI (Human Machine Interaction) toolkit NVIDIA is developing, called UI Composer, is universal in the sense that it can run on top of Android, Linux, Windows RT, and probably other operating systems. User interfaces made using UI Composer can then be controlled remotely using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. A Google Nexus 7 running Android Jelly Bean is used in one of the examples - it's basically an Android controller talking to a system running Android. Interested developers can download NVIDIA's UI Composer bundle from the official site.

But back to GTC. Next to the Android setup in the video, we have a dashboard running on Linux, while the one on the very right is running Windows RT. The software running on the Linux system was particularly impressive because it featured an integrated map UI powered by Google Maps and rendered in real time. The futuristic interface kind of reminded me of Ingress, though when I mentioned it, the surprised NVIDIA engineer admitted he'd never heard of it.


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Furthermore, the dashboard designs were essentially skins that one could swap on the fly - who knows, maybe one day there will be a skin store. 99c for a retro theme, anyone? I just hope it's curated, because I daresay most theme developers don't actually have a good design sense.

Another impressive thing NVIDIA is proposing to automobile manufacturers is a standardized modular board design - imagine ripping out a chip from your car, sticking in a new one, and bam - your whole car's entertainment system hardware (not just software) has been updated. That's not even the most important implication though - the real benefit of this modular approach becomes clear when you consider an average concept-to-production cycle of a car is about four years. When automobile engineers, say at Audi, are working on their first year prototypes, they can use NVIDIA's board available at that point in time. 3 years later, when the car is about to be manufactured, they can swap out the boards for the latest gen, tweak them, and voila.


Unfortunately, these concepts show only the very distant future several years away from appearing in our cars - the automotive industry is a very slow-moving beast. It's hard not to get excited for these UIs, though, wouldn't you say? Especially when there's a chance there would be an actual community of developers around it, creating various UIs and applications (though I hope ones that require rigorous mandatory testing).

Artem Russakovskii
Artem is a die-hard Android fan, passionate tech blogger, obsessive-compulsive editor, bug hunting programmer, and the founder of Android Police.
Most of the time, you will find Artem either hacking away at code or thinking of the next 15 blog posts.

  • GraveUypo

    seriously? this confusing mess of transparent and shiny shit is the future? are we in the 80's?

    • Kevin Aaronson

      It's all so... distracting and ugly and dark. It lacks imagination and simplicity.

    • paleh0rse

      So, as the article says, simply install a new skin. derp.I think that a vehicle interface that is as customizable as my phone's homescreen would be completely BADASS! As would a Google Now-powered center console that uses voice commands to bring up performance graphs, the weather, maps-on-demand, etc... YES PLEASE!

  • Tom

    Android in cars is already a reality (although it's not a whole dashboard) : http://www.techradar.com/news/car-tech/renault-launches-android-based-r-link-in-car-tablet-1100210

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Yeah, that's definitely different. We've been watching Android-based CD-player areas for a while, but this one is going to be in the dashboard and everywhere around.

      • Tom

        Well, R-link (the system described by the page I linked) is not just an advanced CD player. It also controlls some elements of the car (especially on the ZOE, the electric car), allows remote interactions through phone apps...

        I just hope that the complexity added by such UI / dashboards won't come at the cost of reliability. A frozen phone I can deal with. A frozen dashboard on the highway is another story.

        • SickoPsycho

          According to the links you provided, the R-link is more geared towards a multimedia station, while also showing some PASSIVE information about the cars use of electricity- battery usage etc. I got interested when I saw that it could increase fuel milage... but that's actually by just offering tips via the gps system which a lot of standalone gps units already do. Should this system crash while you're on the road it would not actually affect the cars drivability in any way... it's not actually linked to any of the vehicles control systems. I would love to see a move towards that, though. We already have steering, brakes and accelerators that are computer controlled-

  • http://twitter.com/ToysSamurai Toys Samurai

    >> imagine ripping out a chip
    from your car, sticking in a new one, and bam - your whole car's
    entertainment system hardware (not just software) has been updated.

    That's great news for us, except that it will be a hard sell to the car makers -- they probably want you buy a new car instead.

    • Freak4Dell

      Do people really buy new cars to get a new entertainment system? That seems like a really expensive solution to the problem.

      • criminology

        psh, peasant. I buy a new car to get new tires!

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      I think the value proposition here is for the car makers, not consumers. They'd be the ones ripping out old chips that they got when they started designing the car and replacing them with new ones when they're closer to finishing, like 2-3 years later. I don't think NVIDIA will be selling such chips to consumers directly anyway.

  • Mike Loomis

    I like the idea of the graphical gauge cluster, like the spedometer, but I don't agree with touchscreen instrument clusters on cars, like heating and entertainment. Car controls should be like remote controls, with physical buttons and dials, so they can be easily felt and controlled without having to take your eyes off the road, or at least being able to see them as quickly as possible. Touchscreens don't have the tactile feel that physical objects have so it requires more of your attention and concentration to work them, which increases the possibility of a crash. They look cool, though.

    • John O’Connor

      Ever try out a Tesla?

    • mechapathy

      Exactly this.

  • John O’Connor

    We have been waiting...

  • Murad

    too distracting I like it simple when I am driving

  • reginag

    Hi technology features. Very attractive. http://www.autoglassguru.com/

  • james kendall

    no just no. this is the dumbest idea I have seen in a long time physical controls for the important features like the heater etc are a must. I refuse to use a flashy touch screen to control my cars basic core features.