Polestar and Android Automotive: Next generation in-car user experience

The next generation in vehicle user interface has arrived in the new Polestar 2: the world’s first vehicle to offer Android Automotive.

What’s next in how we use the internet in our daily lives? New Zealand’s newest electric vehicle brand, Polestar may have the answer. It’s a car that effectively replaces your smartphone.

We all probably agree – there are some pretty unpleasant areas of the internet. But relatively speaking, you can’t deny the web’s contribution to all our lives is overwhelmingly amazing.

There is a veritable world of information now residing in our back pockets. And never mind harnessing the endless powers of this resource through our fingertips like Neanderthals: we now need just to ask, “Hey Google”, or Hey Siri” depending on what operating platform you swear allegiance to.

The gravity of this may be all but lost on our kids, but for those of us old enough to have had one of these new-fangled photo driver licenses expire, it has been amazing to watch it all unfold. And naturally the question of ‘what’s next?’ must be asked.

New Zealand’s newest electric vehicle brand, Polestar, may have the answer. Here’s a car that effectively replaces your smartphone.

Launching with its striking Polestar 2 model, the premium marque is built upon the latest in vehicle technology and is the world’s first car to feature Android Automotive, a dedicated Automotive-specific Android protocol that empowers the car with a full suite of Google capabilities, as well as many more online services built into the vehicle.

“But I have Android Auto already, right?” you may ask. And yes – you are right. Android Auto capability and – on the Apple side of the fence – Apple Carplay have been around for a few years. But Android Automotive is a further step beyond in terms of functionality.

To clarify the difference, the traditional Android Auto is a platform running on the user’s phone, projecting the Android Auto user experience to a compatible in-vehicle infotainment system over Bluetooth or a USB connection. Android Auto supports apps designed for in-vehicle use.

Android Automotive on the other hand, is an operating system and platform running directly on the in-vehicle hardware and running it in its entirety. It’s a highly customisable platform powering the infotainment experience. Android Automotive supports apps built for Android as well as those built for Android Auto.

There are a lot of benefits to the extended Android Automotive system, both for the manufacturer and the vehicle user. To deliver their preferred user experience, manufacturers can license Google’s suite of services like Google Maps, Google Play and Google assistant, or integrate with other compatible providers like TomTom or Amazon Alexa.

For the owner of the vehicle, the system provides more car-specific Google assistant functionality. Right away you’ll notice the home screen works in the same way your Android phone does. You can drag and move around apps, portion tiles dedicated to media or navigation etc and scroll in the same way you interact with your phone. The integrated Google Maps app for the Polestar 2 includes battery charge forecasting, so as well as destination arrival information, Maps will also tell you how much battery the car will have when you arrive.

With the more car-centric approach to the apps on Android Automotive, it’s a much less fussy way to interface, the visual tiles on Spotify, for instance, are larger so it’s easier to operate while driving. Or you can just ask the assistant to play the track you want, as well as now being able to ask Google to adjust your seat heating and climate settings too.

Overall, Android Automotive operates more seamlessly with no compatibility issues you may have experienced with Android Auto, depending on the mobile device you’re pairing. And like any software these days, it’s automatically updated over the internet.

The system opens the doors for customisable functionality too. If Polestar create a more contemporary user interface for their infotainment touch panel, this can be issued as an update.

The Polestar 2 come equipped with its own connected sim card onboard to enable the connection to the internet while a Bluetooth antenna in the driver’s door is capable of recognising your phone as you approach, setting the car up with seating and mirror positions, radio frequencies or Spotify play lists, even your climate control preferences and steering weight.

We’ll start to see Android Automotive employed by many more manufacturers. But testament to its forward-looking commitment to technology as a way to enhance our lives, Polestar is the first to bring the system to market.

With many exciting developments planned for Android Automotive the Polestar 2 is poised to take advantage of these and deliver a richer, more connected experience than any other car before it.

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