On Monday, Ford and Google announced a new partnership that will see the automaker work with Google on in-car technology. Perhaps the biggest news is that Ford is switching to Android for its infotainment systems by 2023. That means future Fords will feature Sync systems that use Google Maps and Android’s excellent voice recognition, as well as opening up the platform to third-party developers. Ford will also use Google Cloud for its connected services, and the two companies will collaborate “to create new experiences for customers.”
It has been a few years since we first knew that Google was using its Android OS to build infotainment systems for automakers. Last year, we got our first proper exposure to a production Android Automotive infotainment system, first in the Polestar 2, then a few months later in the closely related Volvo XC40 Recharge. And later this year, General Motors’ various brands also begin a move to Android Automotive-based infotainment systems.
The user experience in both vehicles stood out from the crowd, particularly due to the extremely effective natural language voice recognition. Unlike voice commands in other vehicles, Android Automotive allows the driver to use voice commands to interact with climate functions as well as pure infotainment tasks, which goes a long way toward ameliorating the distraction danger from an all-touchscreen car interior.
To make it clear: Android-powered infotainment systems will still be able to cast a user’s smartphone via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and the move to Android will not mean that iPhone users are unable to connect their phones to their new Ford.
End users aren’t the only ones who will notice an easier time working with Android; Polestar told Ars that Google was able to add new features to the system for the automaker in just a couple of weeks. (Specifically, programming in the ability for its press office to program in custom drive routes for journalist first drives—a little bit inside baseball, I know.) Automakers are also attracted to the platform as it promises robust third-party developer support.
We’ll have to wait a couple of years for new Fords to start shipping with an Android-powered version of Sync, and existing models may not receive the new system until mid-life refreshes.