Dark Android Auto?
Let me just say right out of the gate that I don’t really see any appeal to a car having an operating system built into it. In fact, I see a lot of reasons not to (consider the recent hacks against the Uconnect systems in Chrysler vehicles, among others). But hey, some people want this sort of thing…who am I to say no to them?
So I’ve gotten a lot of questions as of late to my podcast Sovryn Tech asking me what my opinions are on the whole Android Auto idea. Well, my overall opinion on it was just stated (in case you’re particularly daft, I think it’s a bad idea), but why don’t I get into the how’s and why’s of this whole Android Auto thing, anyway?
First off, I don’t like buying cars that are newer than 1995 (I don’t trust anything newer). That doesn’t mean I like buying shoddy, roughed-up vehicles. You can still easily buy cars in beautiful condition that are pre-1996. It just means that while “computers” have been in cars since the 80’s, it was only from 1996 up that those computers became something that:
- Can track you.
- Began eliminating more direct control over braking, steering, and acceleration, and more reliance upon various useless sensors (as in, they don’t affect actual operation of the vehicle) throughout the car.
- Requires special maintenance by your local garage when you get a State inspection done. Bring a pre-1996 vehicle for inspection, and as long as your headlights work, you’ll be out of there in about 5 minutes (as compared to day, or days-long inspection and repair of modern cars thanks to ODB II). You can’t beat that kind of aggregation relief.
Plus, pre-1996 vehicles just drive better. If you want to say that is an “opinion”, I’m sorry, you’re just wrong. I owned a 1973 Ford LTD that I only recently sold off, and anyone that rode in that car instantly made comments like, “Wow, you’re going 110 mph, but it feels like we’re sitting on a couch it’s so smooth”. That’s not subjective, that’s correlative anecdotes that prove a singular point: today’s cars are shit.
YES. THEY. ARE.
That said, if you’re in the market for a pre-1996 car, obviously you’re not going to get one that has Android Auto built into it. This is, of course, a good thing, but if you really want that Android Auto functionality, you’re not at a total loss. Enter Pioneer. Makers of car stereo’s for what seems like eons, Pioneer has created a full line of Android Auto decks that you can add to pretty much any car out there. Granted, you might have to do a bit of kit work to make it fit with your dashboard, but I think the juice is worth the squeeze in this case. Considering how many bugs and security holes Android itself has (which is half the reason the Dark Android Project exists and you are reading this blog), not having Android Auto tied into the entire operation of your car (much like the Hyundai’s doing) could literally be a lifesaver. So this is not only an option, but it’s the only way I’d go if I wanted Android Auto in my car.
Seriously, even if you are into newer cars, the Pioneer–or “after market”–Android Auto option is still the way to go. Don’t let Android communicate with your car’s operation anymore than it has to. Though I could imagine that even on post-1996 vehicles, Android Auto might still get a little too far into your car’s operations than would be comfortable for me.
Also, as I understand it at the time of this writing, there isn’t any real open-source version of Android Auto (such as CyanogenMod or AOSP) that would allow you to go full “Dark Android” with it, but at the very least with the Pioneer systems it would be sandboxed away from affecting the rest of your car.
And certainly I’ll admit there are fun things that could be done with Android Auto, too. A large option of GPS apps are available for you to use (you don’t have to use Google Maps, thankfully), the encrypted-messaging Telegram app also has Android Auto function, and of course the streaming music services are phenomenal when compared to the days of having to switch CD’s or tapes out. You could perhaps use virtual assistant software like Microsoft’s Cortana and you could imagine that you are Michael Knight driving around in KITT, talking to your car and telling it to get in touch with this person or that person, or whatever other function you’d like the voice-enabled assistant to perform. So I can at least get the appeal in those regards.
Of course, another possibility to do all of this is to just take an older tablet (like Dark Android’s favored 2013 Nexus 7) and install a ROM of Android Auto onto it and mount it to your dash. Not the prettiest solution, perhaps, but it works.
Bottom line for me is to not let Android be a major part of your vehicle. As it stands right now, you’re not going to be able to do a full Dark Android implementation of Android Auto, but if you really want to have the functionality for whatever reason, go with the optional and system-separated Pioneer Android Auto head units. Don’t go buying a car that has it built-in. That’s just asking for trouble.