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Google Driving Toward Android-Powered Cars

Already well recognized for its efforts to develop self-driving cars, Google is reportedly also working on getting its Android mobile operating system built directly into a variety of vehicles. Such a system would allow drivers to use mobile apps without having to connect their cellphones to their cars, according to a Reuters article published Thursday.

Google rolled out its preview of Android Auto in June. Designed to support easier in-car use of audio and messaging apps, Android Auto has been touted as a way to integrate mobile devices with cars in a safer and more streamlined way.

Last month, Google announced that it was making the first APIs available to developers who want to build Android Auto-enabled apps. It has also begun working with a number of Android Auto partners, including iHeartRadio, Pandora, SoundCloud, Spotify and WhatsApp.

Contending with CarPlay

Google is far from the only Internet tech company looking to gain a foothold in the automotive market. In March, for instance, Apple announced a new offering called CarPlay with many of the same features that Google is working on.

Designed for in-car integration with iPhones, CarPlay uses Apple’s iOS operating system to give drivers hands-free access to their phones’ contacts, calls, messages and music. The system features Apple’s Siri personal digital assistant that can read messages, take dictation and respond to voice commands.

Rolled out first in vehicles made by Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, CarPlay will eventually be featured in cars from a number of other manufacturers including BMW, Ford, GM, and Honda, according to Apple.

The first Android Auto-enabled cars are expected to hit the market in 2015, according to Reuters. As with Apple CarPlay, however, a user would be required to connect a mobile device to the vehicle’s system.

Auto Update with Android M

The next version of Android Auto would enable motorists to take advantage of the mobile operating system with or without using their cellphones. That update is expected to come when Google puts out Android M, likely in “a year or so,” the article noted, citing “two people with knowledge of the matter.”

In October, Google released Android 5.0 Lollipop, which it said was its “biggest update of Android to date.” While the operating system has been reported to feature a number of bugs in need of fixing, it was built with a “material design” approach designed to eventually work across any device, from smartphones and wearables to TVs and cars.

As part of its efforts to incorporate its operating system into cars, Google has also teamed up with companies including Audi, GM, Honda, Hyundai and Nvidio to establish the Open Automotive Alliance. According to the organization’s Web site, the founding companies “share a vision for making technology in the car safer, more seamless and more intuitive for everyone.”

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