Google joins with automakers to put Android-connected cars on road

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Google has unveiled an alliance that includes several of the world's leading automakers, like Audi, General Motors (GM), Hyundai and Honda, which hope to bring Android-connected cars on the road.  

On Monday, Patrick Brady, Google's director of Android Engineering, took to the company's official Android blog to discuss the initiative, dubbed the “Open Automotive Alliance” (OAA).

According to Brady, automotive and tech companies have teamed up under the effort to the bring the Android platform closer to the driver's seat. As Brady puts it, "millions of people already bring Android phones and tablets into their cars, but it's not yet a driving-optimized experience."

"Wouldn't it be great if you could bring your favorite apps and music with you, and use them safely with your car's built-in controls and in-dash display?" Brady wrote.

Along with Audi, GM, Hyundai and Honda, Santa Clara, Calif.-based visual computing firm Nvidia has joined the new alliance. A website, openautoalliance.net, has also been launched to provide insight on OAA.

“The OAA is a global alliance of technology and auto industry leaders committed to bringing the Android platform to cars starting in 2014,” the website says.  Additionally, an FAQ section on the site adds that the group would also aim to bring the mobile platform to cars in a “safe and seamless way” and that the effort would be beneficial to drivers “already trying to access mobile services while they're on the road…”

“By working with automakers to deliver these experiences in ways that make sense for the automobile, drivers can get what they're looking for without disrupting their focus on the road,” the site said.

In addition to working with its partners to better integrate connectivity between Android devices and cars, Google is also developing a new Android platform “that will enable the car itself to become a connected Android device,” the OAA site said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is among the government agencies the alliance has been in contact with throughout the effort.

On Monday, SCMagazine.com reached out to Google in regards to what the alliance will do to specifically address potential software vulnerabilities in coming Android-connected vehicles. A spokesman for Google directed SCMagazine.com to the OAA website in regards to its inquiries.

Charlie Miller, a security engineer at Twitter, and Chris Valasek, director of security intelligence at IOActive, have presented cutting-edge research on how cars (specifically those manufactured by Ford and Toyota) can be remotely controlled via hacking.

On Monday, Miller told SCMagazine.com via email that it doesn't appear that tech companies or automakers are taking advantage of the security community, in order to consider the implications of internet-connected cars.

“I definitely think these automotive efforts need to have security experts brought in from the beginning,” Miller said. “I'm hoping that is one of the things that would have come out of Chris and I's research last summer. As far as I can tell, it's not happening. We haven't been contacted by any automotive manufacturers since DefCon and I don't know any security folks in contact with the automotive manufacturers, although they certainly could be.”

Miller does believe, however, that integrating a widely-used platform, like Android, could be a “big security win,” if companies plan to forge ahead in making cars more connected.

“While having a standard platform can make attacks easier, I think a standardized platform really helps the manufacturers because they don't have to make all the same mistakes that everyone makes,” Miller said. “Instead, they can benefit from the process Android has already gone through. Plus when researchers start to look at it, their results can be applied to all vehicles (using Android) as opposed to just one make/model since they are all different, which is the current situation."

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