One of the last large automakers to incorporate Android Auto compatibility into its vehicles, Toyota announced in January 2018 that the 2019 Avalon would offer the technology. From there, according to The Verge, it spread to the company’s other small SUVs and sedans. Early in 2019, Toyota announced that its 2020 models of the 4Runner, Tacoma, Tundra, and Sequoia will all offer Android Auto.
Why did Toyota hold out so long?
Toyota claimed concerns about the security of the feature was one reason they held off on implementing Android Auto as long as they did. During that time, they focused on the development of their infotainment system. Based on Automotive Grade Linux, the system uses Ford’s SmartDeviceLink to permit certain phone apps to reflect on the vehicle’s screen. The set up intends to closely replicate the main draw of Android Auto and CarPlay.
Going back a little further, it was only a few months after Toyota announced it would develop its own infotainment system in 2015 when Motor Trend released a report that Google was collecting excessive and unnecessary data, particularly when compared to Apple. Motor Trend maintained that Google was collecting data on coolant and oil temperatures, engine revs, vehicle speed, throttle position, and more. Apple, on the other hand, only wanted to know if the car was in motion while Apple Play was being used.
It wasn’t long ago that automakers were unnerved by the idea of giving up control of the touchscreens in their vehicles to technology companies. Now Android Auto and CarPlay are pretty much industry standard. But most of the automakers are already on board including some like BMW who features a wireless edition of CarPlay. Android Auto wireless is also available but only on specific head units.
Google has been working with a few automakers on a native version of Android Auto that they hope to launch one day. The new infotainment system will be Android-powered and should debut in the all-electric Polestar 2, the second production vehicle from Volvo’s performance line. Before long it will also be available with Volvo’s own models too.
There’s also a deal with Google that will bring the Android infotainment system to vehicles made by the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance.
Toyota Tacoma will also offer Alexa compatibility.
Android Auto is software that’s designed to integrate the vehicle with the owner’s smartphones. The system can make phone calls, send text messages, and play music through voice commands. The technology allows for hands-free connectivity so the driver’s focus can stay on the road where it belongs. The system is easy to use and allows the driver to stay in touch without sacrificing personal safety.
The system can also project maps on the vehicle’s touchscreen and offer voice directions to the intended location to help with navigation. The Android Auto software renders built-in navigation systems redundant.
Many other automakers have offered Android Auto for a couple of years now. A Toyota spokesperson told Bloomberg that the company had been reluctant to add the “…software due to safety and security reasons.”
An unsatisfying announcement
The announcement is bound to leave some Toyota fans unsatisfied. In truth, aside from the Tacoma, the vehicles getting Android Auto aren’t the best sellers in the automaker’s lineup. Many will hope for integration with the company’s heavy hitters by 2021.
Part of the reason they held off in making the technology standard might lie with their interest in the Automotive Grade Linux project. The project intends to develop multimedia system bases with elements shared among many actors across the industry.
Since one doesn’t need to impede the other, Toyota went ahead and pulled the trigger and added Android Auto and CarPlay to keep up with the Joneses. When will they add the technology to their entire lineup? Only time will tell.