Renault joins Volvo, Polestar in offering Google’s Android Automotive in production vehicle

MUNICH — Renault says the new Megane E-Tech Electric compact SUV is the first mainstream car to use the Android Automotive operating system, building in the look, feel and functionality of an Android smartphone. 

Navigation duties are handled by Google Maps, which appears on a 12-inch-by-12-inch touch screen (lower-end versions get a 9-inch-deep screen with the same functionality). Directions can be entered using Google Assistant voice recognition; and there are more than 40 apps such as Spotify available on the Google Play Store, which users can download directly to the car.

“This screen is the masterpiece of the new Megane’s cockpit,” Renault chief designer Gilles Vidal said Monday at the Munich auto show. “By partnering with Google Automotive Services, we have been able to provide accessible and user-friendly apps.”

Renault Group CEO Luca de Meo said the Open R Link was the “real gem” in the new Megane, noting that 75 percent of the world’s smartphones run on the Android system.

Android Automotive is an operating system that runs directly on the car’s in-vehicle hardware, in this case a third-generation Qualcomm Snapdragon automotive cockpit platform that uses AI to improve voice recognition and safety use cases.

Android Auto, in contrast, runs on the user’s smartphone and is projected over the vehicle’s infotainment system with a USB connection. Apple phone users can connect to the Megane’s screen using Apple Car Play, which works the same way as Android Auto.

Android Automotive is currently used to drive infotainment systems in two production vehicles, the Volvo XC40 Recharge EV and Polestar 2 EV. It is set to appear on future GM models, starting with the revived Hummer brand and the Cadillac Lyric, and both Stellantis and Ford have announced that future models will use the operating system.

Other automakers, such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Tesla, are developing their own operating systems. But Android Automotive is an off-the-shelf, open-source system that lets automakers customize it to their needs.