Volvo announced Monday that its next-generation Sensus infotainment system will include a host of Google services, including Google Assistant, Google Maps as well as apps available through the Google Play Store.
While all of these integrations are going to be Android-based, you don’t really need to have an Android smartphone, or, for that matter, any smartphone, to be able to use the system.
“Bringing Google services into Volvo cars will accelerate innovation in connectivity and boost our development in applications and connected services,” said Henrik Green – Volvo’s senior VP for research and development.
“Soon, Volvo drivers will have direct access to thousands of in-car apps that make daily life easier and the connected in-car experience more enjoyable.”
The announcement was first made by the two companies at last year’s I/O Developer Conference and confirmed a day ahead of this year’s conference due to start from May 8.
The collaboration between the automaker and the tech giant will see several Google services and apps getting embedded into Volvo’s next-gen Sensus infotainment system in a way that will allow drivers to use the services independently, without the need of a smartphone.
Google Maps will play a key role in the new Volvo’s navigation system, offering users real-time traffic data, map updates as well as proactive route change suggestions – a feature that has already proved its utility on smartphone Google Maps.
The Google Assistant will be as useful an inclusion as any other, providing a central voice interface for future Volvos, which will allow drivers to manipulate in-car functions like air-conditioning, sun-roof and windows, as well as use apps for sending messages and controlling music – all with the help of voice commands.
The Google Play Store will include a plethora of approved downloadable apps with Google’s affirmation that its screening system will ensure that driver distraction is minimal, and that more can be done from the dashboard than ever before.
The current version of Volvo’s Sensus runs on a large portrait-oriented touch-sensitive display integrated into the car’s dashboard, controlling navigation, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning), media as well as allowing access to a limited number of apps.
“The Google partnership to be entered into is an important strategic alliance for Volvo Cars,” said Green.
“The Android platform, Google services and Google’s working relationship with app developers in-house and worldwide will help us further improve the Volvo car experience,” he added.
Volvo will, however, continue to develop its own apps and connected services independent of its partnership with Google.
Google’s Android offers a “turnkey” solution to automakers that can use the automobile-specific operating system just like smartphone manufacturers do.
We got a glimpse of the system’s apparent utility at last year’s I/O, where Google demoed the system on a Maserati.
Not only Volvo, but Audi is also partnering with Google to introduce a similar infotainment system based on Android Nougat 7.0, allowing users access to the same Google Maps, Google Assistant and apps that are found in Android Auto, again, without the need for an Android smartphone.
With the infotainment system not cornering users to use Android devices, more tailored choices can be made available to them to enhance their in-car experience.
Google has also announced a fresh user interface (UI) and new Google Maps features for the Google Auto to make it smarter and more user-oriented.
A new group messaging feature and a Rich Communication System (RCS) are also being introduced to the Android Auto.
Additionally, third-party integration is being upgraded to include integrated search results, and more, in an attempt to enhance the overall Android Auto experience for its users.
Moving back to Volvo’s next-gen Sensus, it’s going to offer a far bigger choice of apps on the Google Play Store than ever before, including thousands of other car-specific apps that can be accessed using the cars’ integrated 4G LTE connectivity.
In an attempt to allay security and hacking concerns, Google is also going to increase the frequency of feature and security updates.
The first batch of next-gen Sensus-equipped Volvo cars will not be rolling out any time soon; in fact, it “will launch in a couple of years from now,” according to the Swedish carmaker.
For now, users will have to make do with the current smartphone version of Sensus, which not only supports Android Auto but Apple CarPlay, as well.