23
Oct
2014-tesla-model-s_100436548_m

The Tesla line of electric vehicles are marvels of modern transportation technology, but they also come with a healthy does of consumer tech. Tesla's Model S comes with an advanced 17-inch touchscreen dashboard system running on Linux. When CEO Elon Musk was asked recently if app developers would get to play in the Tesla ecosystem, he had a surprising response. Apparently, the future of Tesla could include Android.

Tesla's first order of business is to finish the localization work that will make the software functional around the world, but after that he sees the car's browser being moved to Chrome. Knowing that Android development is booming, the company is considering ways to port Android apps to the car on Linux using the Qt application framework. Another more alluring possibility is that a full Android emulator could be built into the Model S allowing Android apps to be run with little to no modification.

Tesla-Model-S-interior

As for a timeline, Musk said developers could be turned loose on the Model S by late 2014. Maybe it would be sooner, but Musk is busy making hovering science-fictional rockets half of the time.

[9to5 Google]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • Greyhame

    BOSS.

  • jeffrey6283

    What does "emulator" really mean in this context? If you're going to use Android, just use Android. No emulating about it. Heck, "A modified version of Android" would be a much more meaningful phrase.

    • iboalali

      because delvik (what runs non-native apps) is an emulator. AFAIK

      • jeffrey6283

        Delvik is a JVM if I recall. Still, It'd be emulating the Java runtime to run apps, but Android would still be Android. Its like saying a different distro of Linux is a Linux emulator. I just think the word "emulator" is just confusing here.

        • Sorian

          I think that they are going the emulator route is due to the OS being used for more than the touch screen.

          • jeffrey6283

            The Kyocera Echo had dual screens and Samsung even has a dual screen phone coming.

        • petorrr

          dalvik is not an emulator but it also isn't a jvm, it runs dalvik-bytecode, which is on the devs-computer transformed from jvm-bytecode.

          An emulator emulates something else but dalvik is not emulating anything it is itself.

          • jeffrey6283

            Ah, thanks for clearing up that dalvik question.

        • didibus

          Dalvik is a virtual machine. A virtual machine is a piece of software that converts code from one language into machine language (or assembly language) at real time. This way, it takes architecture agnostic code and adapts it into a language that the current architecture understands at the time of execution.

          Why he's talking about emulation, is because, Android is more than Dalvik. Not all apps for Android use Dalvik, and those that do often use API calls specific to Android. The functionality of those API call would have to be emulated, if they don't exist in their current system.

    • Hugo

      the car functions require something that cannot be interfered with by apps or other interruptions. Engine checks, roof operations and other more crucial tasks will probably be done by the Linux OS at a much higher priority than the Android emulator will get so that the next automatic update of Candy Crush doesn't hinder getting an overheating warning. (has nothing to do with Dalvik)

      • jeffrey6283

        Still you should be able to write that into a modified version of the actual Linux kernel by simply creating a new class of tasks that take automatic priority over most other tasks. You could probably even do this on the OS level right into Android. Either that or your console could just run on a separate system networked with the core vehicle systems. Still getting back to no emulators being involved.

        • Mike Harris

          Now you're really confusing me. Rather than an emulation, you're advocating for a second, separate system that interfaces with the main system through a network? Putting computer-processing aside (just for argument's sake), isn't powering all that an inefficient use of the battery? Isn't the main draw of these cars the fact that they're incredibly energy-efficient?

          • didibus

            I wouldn't be surprised if that's how it worked currently. A specialized, highly focused, critically tested system runs all of the car functionality and engines in a very efficient and secure manner, while a secondary processor runs the dash interface. You just can not risk having your GPS map or you radio crash your car.

      • didibus

        I hope that kind of car functionality is in no way running on the dash interface. I've never seen a car mix the two. I've had a lot of car interface freeze and restart, myLinq on chevrolet for example, but the car functionality are not running on that at all.

    • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

      I think you're confused here. They essentially mean it'll be running in a VM, which is, in essence, emulating it. To not emulate, or virtualize, it, they would need to REPLACE their entire current OS with it. Not feasible. So they'd have to run Android on top of it. And more likely than not, he's talking about running it in a way that's transparent to the user, so they're not seeing the Android interface at all, which comes closer still to an emulation of the OS since most of its functions wouldn't be there. Sounds like his usage of the term is valid enough in layman's terms.

      • jeffrey6283

        Then I'm wondering what the point of having Android at all would be aside from the name and access to Dalvik to run any number of apps. I suppose that would be enough, but seems like a rather superficial use of the OS. Thanks for the explanation.

        • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

          You don't think the app catalog of over a million apps has anything to do with their choice? They're not trying to reinvent the wheel, or develop yet another platform for apps. They're trying to provide value by giving their owners access to an already rich vein of content that will sync with apps they likely already have on their phones.

          • didibus

            Why do they still want to use their custom Linux OS layer, if they plan apps to run emulated from android. Android is already Linux, they should take Android and add the customization they need to it and go forward with that instead.

            Many people have said they were to emulate Android before, Ubuntu said they would, never happened, BlackBerry did, and it sucked.

            If they don't want to go Android, than don't at all, and make a new eco-system with specialized app. I think an emulation layer is a bad idea, it just feels redundant. But hey, if they manage to pull it out perfectly, than go ahead, but I have my doubts.

          • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

            Really? You really think redesigning the entire OS that works PERFECTLY now, that they likely spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, on developing, that underwent massive amounts of QA, stability, safety, standards, and compatibility testing should just be swapped out with Android so they don't have to virtualize/emulate Android? You think that would be the smarter, more cost efficient, safer, more prudent option here? Because YOU don't want an emulation layer for some unspecified feeling that it's a "bad idea" and "feels redundant?"

            And funny you point out how badly emulation has gone for others, but then say they should just make their own app ecosystem, ignoring that those same examples you gave didn't exactly do well at that either. Android is an insanely rich source of mature apps and app developers. Starting from scratch for a niche vehicle (and I say that with love for the Model S, a deep-seated desire to own one, and a knowledge of how well it's selling; but I also realize ANY one model of car in the world, even a Civic, is niche in the sea of cars) is a sure way to guarantee you never get much in the way of developer support.

          • didibus

            I'm talking from a developer standpoint. Moving some functionality from linux to linux sounds easier than creating an integrated emulation layer. Having a VM is a different thing, but having a VM in no way let's you leverage what you already have running. VMs are to abstract the hardware layer from the software layer.

            Windows emulated itself once, with Win XP compatibility layer, it didn't work very well, and they had the advantage of having almost identical APIs, so little was needed to be modified. I'm not convinced they can properly emulate android inside of their os without having it feel clunky, and restraining the android apps that it can run.

            I feel that time might be better spent making a couple of quality apps native to their os, that are useful in a car context and working on opening it up to 3rd party developers.

            Tesla does not compete with smartphones, it competes with other cars, and no cars as of now has a good OS, and no car has one that allows 3rd party devs to make apps for it, and none have a store, etc.

            Tesla could be the first to do so, and I'm sure devs would embrace it. You also have to think, a lot of the apps you'd want for you car, would need to get information from the car and have access to it's features. Will they add special API on top of their emulation layer for android apps to be made to work with them? But that would mean an android app made for Tesla would only work on Tesla, not on any other android. So it becomes the same thing as making apps for Tesla OS.

        • Mike Harris

          seems like a rather superficial use of the OS

          Not to be a dick, but I don't understand why you consider that superficial. More importantly, if not for having access to programs/apps that only run on a specific OS, I don't understand what else you would be looking to achieve with emulation.

          Is that really any different than saying it's superficial to run an NES emulator if all you're trying to do is have access to, and play, the thousands of games created for it?

          • jeffrey6283

            I just meant that I could have much deeper integration, but its just used in a virtualization layer for a screen. Not trying to downplay the advantages of being able to have access to the Play store if it goes that route.

          • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

            Honestly, within a car, I'd be very, very nervous about it having especially deep integration. I'm pretty confident that they'll tunnel some specific functionality and data into the emulator/VM and expose it via an API, and boom, the result is the same, and insanely exciting. In fact, odds are they'll do the same via Bluetooth to Android (and other) phones.

  • Joshua

    Just a couple nights ago I thought "The Model S would be so much better if it were running Android, since that's already optimized for a touchscreen." The 17" screen in the car is essentially a really huge tablet, so having a mobile OS with some customization would be ideal in my opinion. I feel like having multi-window baked into the OS rather than tacked on at the UI layer, à la manière de Samsung, would allow any arbitrary app to be supported, which would be good for such a large "tablet".

    • Jadephyre

      I've seen close-up shots of the 17" screen, and they need to hire a different graphic designer, it looks a bit plasticky...

      • Joshua

        I've seen a couple in person, but only when they're off. No idea what it's like in person when it's on.

        • FunkyMonkey

          YOU SIR WIN THE INTERNET, FOR A DAY

      • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

        I've seen it in person. Had no such complaint.

  • Sergio

    Can`t wait to see what happens when Android gets into SpaceX... ;-P

  • The_16th_Doctor

    now this is what im willing to work overtime for

  • Defenestratus

    Hey Elon,

    I don't want to rain on your devoted followers' parade, but instead of adding touch screens, doohickeys and doodads to the inside of the car - how about you try some other things first.

    1) Make it affordable for the average consumer. If I'm going to spend $80k for a car, I'm going to get an Audi, BMW or Merc.
    2) You need to be focusing less on the car features and more on rapid battery changing stations. Right now if you want to take a trip anywhere, you have to pre-plan every stop along the way to make sure you can make it to a charging station. Consumers don't want to do this.
    3) Make an SUV so that people like me with families, dogs, boats and offroad needs can get on board with the tech.

    • Steve B

      Hey Defenestratus,

      You need to do some research.

      1) If you've seen one in person, you would know that the Model S is on par if not nicer than comparable high end Audi, BMW or Merc cars. To add to this, they will begin targeting the average consumer in the coming years with a lower end, more affordable electric car.
      2) You've heard of Supercharging stations right? They're popping up overnight all over the country.
      3) Model X, coming 2014.

      Come on, do your freaking research, Tesla is way ahead of you.

      • Sorian

        Cost of Ownership too.

        • Steve B

          Exactly, cost of ownership is significantly cheaper for Tesla owners. Zero gas and the Tesla charging stations are 100% free.

          Also, the Model S is the safest production vehicle ever made. Hmm, zero gas, zero emissions and the best safety, that's Koolaid I'm willing to drink.

          • Hugo

            I would not count on that 100% free lasting for very long, as long as they're only selling high end models it will probably remain. When they get lower price models the charging stations will probably rather quickly be converted to accept credit cards.

          • Steve B

            I doubt it.

            If you've ever heard Musk speak you would understand that he desperately wants to break the current automotive mold in our country. Besides, the Supercharging stations are powered by solor panels so while they're powering the charging stations, they're probably also feeding electricity back into the grid. Hell, Tesla may actually be making money from the power companies by providing electricity.

          • jeffrey6283

            You can still have the stations have a usage charge. As long as it is significantly cheaper than filling up with gas, it'll stick. The major sticking point, I believe, is a matter of convenience and compatibility. As long as they tackle those issues it'll succeed. You just need to make it an easy market for the consumer to use and other manufacturers to get into.

          • jm9843

            Why not? They're solar powered. Obviously there are costs associated with deploying them and maintenance, but it'd do more for the Tesla brand if they remained totally free.

          • Jeff718

            Elon has said multiple time that it will remain free, forever, for the Model S. What nobody know is if that (business) model will remain for future vehicles (Model X at the end of next year, Model "E" in 3-4 years).

          • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

            Nope, he's made it clear they will, indeed, remain free for Model S owners. As for anything else, we can't really know yet. But they currently pay for themselves, as they sell excess energy back to the grid. When there are more vehicles using them, will that shift? Possibly. But they have other money-making models, including the battery-switching options at the stations that will replace your battery with a full one for the cost of a full tank of gas.

          • Jadephyre

            There are no Tesla Charging-Stations in Europe as far as I know, and charging even the measly Roadster on a standard socket takes as long as 16 hours if the batteries are close to empty.
            Lets face it, battery-only vehicles are not the future, hydrogen fuel cells are.

          • Steve B

            We're not talking about Europe here and the Roadster is using Tesla's first gen tech. The Model S is using super charging which provides a half charge in 20 minutes. That's 200 miles for a 20 minute pit-stop. Tesla intends to have 98% coverage of the US (and parts of Canada) by the end of 2015. Pretty impressive if you ask me. They are taking the electric vehicle and putting the entire industry's future on their back. If anyone can make this a success, it's Elon Musk. The rest of the automotive industry should be scared.

            I imagine Europe will be tackled later on, but in the US, Tesla's charging stations are popping up at an impressive rate.

            Edit: Go here: http://www.teslamotors.com/supercharger

            Tap the Europe tab, it's true there's nothing now, but drag the slider to the right to see where they plan to implement charging in the coming months and by winter 2014.

          • Brian Menius

            LOL. I'm in the only real hole left in civilization by the end of 2014. Sure, most of North Dakota is still excluded by that time as well, but... people actually live there?

          • Jeff718

            Most of Norway is covered in Superchargers already.

      • Jeff718
    • Jadephyre

      You're not going to go very far offroad on a battery-only vehicle, not even with the most advanced batteries. Also, as far as I know the Tesla's don't have a gearbox per se, at least not a conventional one because the motors are so powerful they kept shredding the gears (happened on the prototypes of the Roadster, they tried a two-speed on that) so you're not going to have low-range anyway.

      • Alexei Watson

        You don't need low range let alone gearboxes with electric motors, you've got all the torque you'll ever need from a stand still. Hence freight trains using electric motors to drive the wheels (powered by diesel).

        • Jadephyre

          And even they have gears to reduce the extremely high rounds per minute, otherwise you'd either burn out the motor or break the axles at some point. Even high tensile steel tends to break if you subject it to massive amounts of torque, and the iron/steel used in cars is not as durable as in trains.

    • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

      Trolling, right? Since every single one of your complaints has been actively addressed and discussed by Tesla? Since we know, for a fact, that their plan all along was to work their way from most expensive to least expensive, using the larger pocketbooks of the rich to absorb the development costs needed to bring the tech to where it needs to be to be affordable? That they've been working their asses off at improving rapid-charging and building superchargers everywhere? That the Model X SUV comes out NEXT YEAR? Has to be trolling to be that ignorant.

  • Steve B

    I would have Elon Musk's babies.

    • Jeff718

      He's already had 5, twins and triplets, at that! Pretty sure he doesn't want anymore.

      • Steve B

        Damn.

    • Mike Harris

      That's funny. I was just thinking to myself that I honestly wish I could be friends with him. And it has nothing to do with money. I would just love to be able to pick his brain from time to time. I'm humbled by his level of intelligence.

      • Steve B

        Same here. I'm fascinated by everything he says.

        You should watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3AcKTmaoE8

        It's a great video of him speaking at the Tesla shareholder event

        • Mike Harris

          Thank you. I'll check that out when I have a chance.

  • jeffrey6283

    I do really like this idea. It means that they're incorporating known mobile tech into the system rather than use up resources creating something purely proprietary that they would have to support completely in house. It also opens up the app possibilities by either running already existing apps and by allowing a much easier entry point for developers.

  • Adam Truelove

    Why an Android emulator? Why not just Android?

    • Sorian

      Think the linux OS is used for more than just the touch screen (think battery management, vehicle diagnostics, etc.)

      • jeffrey6283

        Android is perfectly capable of handling more than just the touch screen. As long as it is programmed to prioritize as needed.

        • Sorian

          Rewrite several thousands of lines of coding to run it Android, or add an emulator. *weighing of options* /Sarcasm

          Disclaimer: Not a programer/developer, so I could be wrong about the amount of effort needed to rewrite the coding to work.

          • jeffrey6283

            Then they're going to have to write something to run on top of the Linux Kernel and then write an something to run the Android emulator. I'd say that is the more complex option.

          • h4rr4r

            Android already runs the linux kernel all they need to do is add the modules it wants.

          • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

            And you would be wrong. Rewriting their entire OS, that's been in development for years and that the ENTIRE vehicle is relying on, and that has safety considerations in mind, to run on a whole DIFFERENT OS is, indeed, the more complex option. Emulating Android on to of it is comparatively simple and puts the vehicle's underlying OS at absolutely no risk.

  • ruperto17

    I think you meant "healthy dose" not "healthy does"..

  • Guy dangerous

    Hey Guys in-app purchases can be free! look droid-android.blogspot.com

    • Thomas’

      Would you mind to piss off?

      • Guy dangerous

        Really sry plz crrct the address droid-planet.blogspot.com

    • h4rr4r

      Why is there not a way to report these posts?
      How hard would it be to have a button for that?

      • gierso

        there is a flag to mark as inapropiate :P

      • Guy dangerous

        Sry bro plz crrct the address its droid-planet.blogspot.com.....

        • Mike Harris

          Thank you. We were all hoping you would take that opportunity to spam us all again. Too bad the address isn't even remotely different or else we all might have fallen for your trolling.

  • polesmoker99

    How I root my car?

    • Thomas’

      By applying wheel clamps?

    • Mike Harris

      Park it in your backyard. Let it sit for 10-20 years. Nature will run its course.

      Rest assured we've got top men looking into a better method.

      • Guy dangerous

        Wow! What a stupid reply

  • nd

    Ive been saying for years google should partner with as many car companies as they can to provide android based systems. If I spent good $ on a car with cool android syncing capability, I would get an android phone for sure....I already do have android, just saying for the average consumer who may be on ios or windows or whatever!