In a significant departure from the prevailing trend, Ford has unveiled a new in-car operating system based on Android Automotive, breaking away from the widely accepted Android Auto and Apple CarPlay systems. While General Motors has chosen to abandon Android Auto and CarPlay altogether, Ford’s approach involves embracing Android Automotive, an embedded version of Android designed for car infotainment systems.
Unlike the mirroring systems of Android Auto and CarPlay, where the phone handles connectivity and computation while the car displays output, Android Automotive operates natively within the car, providing automakers greater flexibility for customization while still integrating popular apps like Google Maps and Assistant.
Ford’s implementation of Android Automotive introduces an intricate setup with two displays—a smaller 11.1-inch screen in the standard center console area and a massive 48-inch display spanning the entire dashboard. This panoramic screen, boasting 4K resolution and powered by the Unreal Engine, encircles both the driver and front passenger seats.
The software is touted as fully customizable, capable of recognizing different drivers’ preferences, allowing users to tailor the interface to display desired features prominently. With its own 5G connectivity, the system facilitates seamless downloads, streaming, and over-the-air operating system updates, although buyers may incur additional costs for the 5G connection.
Despite the advanced features, Ford has not overlooked the importance of maintaining compatibility with familiar systems. The new in-car experience supports standard Android Auto and CarPlay connections, primarily displayed on the center console screen.
Interestingly, Ford intends to enable electric vehicles to share information with Android Auto and CarPlay, providing accurate battery and routing details. Notably, Ford’s announcement downplays the mention of “artificial intelligence,” a notable divergence from contemporary tech marketing trends.
The new infotainment system is showcased in the 2024 Lincoln Nautilus, an upper-mid-range SUV with a starting price of $50,000. Ford plans to roll out this digital experience to more vehicles throughout 2024, although specific models remain undisclosed.
Furthermore, variations in design and screen layouts are anticipated between different Ford vehicles, indicating that the style showcased in the Lincoln Nautilus may not mirror that of other models, such as the Ford Lightning. Ford’s move signals a departure from the established norm in in-car operating systems, emphasizing a blend of native Android Automotive functionality with continued support for widely-used mirroring systems.