Android Automotive remains something of an obscurity, but companies are still happy to tout their latest progress with the platform (or something like it), especially on a stage as large as CES 2018. Before we get to that, it's probably worthwhile to distinguish between Android Automotive and Android Auto: Android Automotive is a standalone, in-vehicle infotainment and control system running Android — basically Android OS for your car. This is a more appealing proposition than the rather laggy experience that is Android Auto, which just projects what's on your phone to an interface that sits in your car.
If you've been reading anything about traffic fatalities in the United States in the last year or so, you've probably heard that we're in the midst of a rather alarming increase in the number of people dying on American roads. In 2015, over 38,000 people were killed in vehicular incidents (this includes pedestrians, cyclists, solo crashes, and multi-vehicle accidents). That was an increase of 7.2% over 2014. 2016 is looking much worse yet, seeing a surge of around 10% over the already grim 2015 numbers. For comparison, the traffic death rate per 100 million vehicle miles is also way up, the worst it's been in seven years (i.e., this is not a simple result of more miles being driven).
If you've read any of my articles on Android Auto, you'll know that my thoughts - for the sake of brevity - are that it's just kind of OK. This is because Android Auto's philosophy of projection via smartphone over USB and Bluetooth is inherently limited in what it can actually do with a vehicle. And so, many of you have asked on Auto articles I've written in the past: "Why doesn't Google just build an Android Car OS?" WhileGoogle may not have been listening per se, they definitely had the same idea, and have created just that. You can also check out our video quickly going over the concept below.
Qualcomm wants you to imagine a world where your mobile device is always connected. No, not that phone in your pocket. Nope, not that tablet either. Bigger. That 3,000 lb. mobile device sitting the driveway. Imagine a vehicle with a screen embedded both in your dashboard and behind every headrest, all syncing up with the screens that sit in every lap except for, ideally, the driver's.
Qualcomm's Snapdragon Automotive Solutions offering combines a Snapdragon 602A processor with QTI's 3G/LTE wireless modems and WiFi/Bluetooth connectivity to provide this connected in-car experience. As the video above shows, this technology empowers owners to turn their smartphones into key fobs and use their center console to check tire pressure.