In a massive shift for Ford’s in-car infotainment systems, the car maker announced today that it will be partnering with Google to bring a new Android-powered OS to millions of Ford cars in 2023.
In addition to the six-year agreement to run Android in its cars, Ford has also designated the Google Cloud as its preferred cloud storage provider, the company announced in its press release. Ford and Google are also joining forces to create a new workgroup called Team Upshift to help increase collaboration between the two companies.
Currently, Ford’s Sync 3 and Sync 4 (which will make its debut on the upcoming Mustang Mach-E) infotainment systems are based on QNX, which is an embedded Linux-based OS developed by BlackBerry. By switching over to an Android-based OS for its cars, Ford to looking to provide better functionality for digital assistants (the Google Assistant), app support (music, podcasts, audiobooks, etc.), Google Maps navigation, and more — all without needing to pair your phone (either wired or wirelessly) to your car.
While Ford did not name the OS specifically, the platform it’s going with is likely to be some form of Android Automotive, which is different than the phone-based Android Auto that people may be more familiar with today. Android Automotive has already been adopted by several other car makers, including Volvo and Volvo’s sub brand Polestar, who was the first car company to feature Android Automotive in production vehicles with the Polestar 1 and soon-to-be-released Polestar 2.
Ford says its new Android-based OS will be available on Ford and Lincoln vehicles starting in 2023. In addition to modernising its infotainment system, Ford says its hoping the new platform will make it easier to send out real-time notices, alerts, or possibly entire updates over the air, which is often cited as one of the biggest advantages of more tech-forward car brands like Tesla.
Meanwhile, for anyone not already invested in the Android ecosystem, Ford says its new platform will still support Apple CarPlay along with third-party apps and experiences like Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant.
Regardless of which car platform you prefer, Ford’s partnership with Google marks an important shift in the car world. Older, less digitally inclined car companies are looking to improve support for the kind of experiences and connectivity people have grown accustomed to on their phones, and are potentially willing to cede more control to experienced software makers like Google.