BMW’s reluctance to join Google’s ecosystem ended in 2020, when it finally added support for Android Auto to some of its vehicles after relying on Apple’s CarPlay for many years. It even added support for wireless connections, making BMW one of the few auto companies to let drivers use Google’s dashboard without having to plug in. The automaker took things a step further last year when it confirmed that it would adopt Android Automotive, a version of Android designed to power cars from the ground up. At CES 2023, BMW shared more details about its plan to bake the platform into its infotainment system.
According to Digital Trends, BMW plans to bring Android Automotive to its future vehicles starting in 2024 with the OS 9 update. This platform will be the company’s first step toward an entirely Android-based infotainment system, a significant departure from the company’s long-standing reliance on Linux, which has served as the foundation of its iDrive experience. When OS 9 is released next year, BMW intends to take a more open-source approach.
This means the company doesn’t intend to use Google Automotive Services (or GAS) — think Google apps for cars — for its Android-based infotainment system. It will instead welcome third-party apps into the fold. The goal is to handle software development in-house and create a more fluid interface free of Google’s grasp, which is only possible with Automotive.
For end-users, this means losing access to the Google Play Store on their car display. Rather than tap Google for help on implementing the system, BMW will use third-party app stores such as Aptoid for its platform, effectively preventing the search giant from taking over your dashboard. If you’d like to stick with Google’s own app marketplace, other car brands that rely on Google Automotive Services such as Ford, GM, and Volvo may be up your alley.
Despite being the last carmaker to support Android Auto, BMW is among an early wave of automakers to back Automotive. That said, the company’s existing car models that ship with iDrive 8 will stick with Linux. In the future, these vehicles will be updated to iDrive 8.5, which will offer an Android experience sans the full-on capabilities available on Automotive.