I ran across this article recently posted on Arstechinica about the future integration of smartphones and cars. The release of the Motorola Atrix and its coupled netbook dock have given us a peek at what the future might hold. The mobile computing waters have gotten a bit more muddy but a lot more interesting. With the ongoing leaps in performance and wide adoption, smartphones have gone from a simple tool to a legitimate mobile computing device. And thanks to their mobility and constant internet connection a variety of new uses have become apparent. One of the most interesting is the integration between our Smartphones and our cars.
The there are a couple scenarios which provide insight into the way this integration could go down. The first scenario is that the automakers come up with their own built in solutions. This solution has its has its drawbacks but safety concerns may dictate that this may be the only way. Would we want to trust our smartphone not to crash if it were in control of important systems in our vehicle as it flew down the highway?
An alternative solution involves a hybrid system where the car controls the man functioning of the car but releases other systems such as entertainment, navigation, and monitoring to the smartphone device.
So here's the scenario. You get in your vehicle, drop your mobile in the car slot. The mobile authenticates itself to the vehicle, and takes over the console display. (You can have it be a pop-up/hidden one if it really makes you feel better). There, you authenticate yourself and then the car starts. Car should utilize the mobile's media library, navigation system, communications, etc, while providing a nicer display and perhaps its own add-in background app for systems monitoring.
What this comes down to now is a problem with standards. With a variety of auto and smartphone manufacturers, operating systems, interfaces, and integration protocols it may prove nearly impossible to implement a solution that ties everything together. Many point to Android being the solution thanks to its rising popularity and its open software stack which might allow developers to tackle these problems.
I can tell you that the automotive industry is increasingly realizing that when it comes to infotainment, it's best to let the professionals do their job. I think Android is uniquely positioned here to pull this off...