Renault SA, Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. are about to do what many carmakers have been trying to avoid: let Google into the dashboard.
The French-Japanese auto alliance announced Tuesday a technology partnership that will make its vehicles among the first to use Google’s Android operating system in the dashboard, letting Alphabet Inc.’s software control mapping and navigation, infotainment and a suite of apps directly installed in the car.
Most carmakers allow Android Auto and Apple Inc.’s CarPlay into the dashboard only by plugging in a smartphone and projecting a limited number of apps onto the vehicle’s touch screen.
Most carmakers have tried to keep Google and Apple at arm’s length, hoping to keep control of such valuable data as a driver’s whereabouts, driving patterns, shopping preferences and infotainment use. Automakers have also sought to forge their own commercial partnerships to sell connected services, rather than let tech players like Google cash in.
“We’re merging our forces to build a better system,” said Kal Mos, global vice president of connected vehicles for the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance. “If you forget your phone, it will work perfectly fine in the car,” he said of Google’s system.
Volvo Cars has announced that it will start using Android in 2020, but no other carmaker has, said Mike Ramsey, a research director at Gartner Inc.
With Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, drivers will be able to have their favorite Android-based apps, music and other services piped directly into the car.
They will also be able to control them by voice using Google Assistant. Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi customers who have Apple iPhones can continue to project apps onto the touch screen the way they do now, Mos said.
It will be up to each automaker to craft its individual in-car experience using Android’s operating system and to plan when they will offer it in specific models, starting in 2021.