CES: Continental builds Android-based car

At CES 2011, Continental showed off a car with an Android head unit.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
2 min read
AutoLinq screen
AutoLinq is an Android-based automotive head unit offering many apps. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

LAS VEGAS--Automotive supplier Continental brought a car to CES sporting a new head unit with an Android operating system. Continental used the Volkswagen CC to demonstrate some of the possible apps that drivers would find useful. Continental calls the system AutoLinq.

During a demonstration, a Continental representative showed a teen driver app with a number of features parents would appreciate. The car's navigation system contains speed limit data, so the teen driver app initially flashes a yellow warning screen if the current road's speed limit is exceeded. If the car continues to speed, the app flashes a red warning, with text that says it is about to send a text message alerting the car's owner. If the driver persists, the car sends out its text message, letting parents know what their children have been up to.

AutoLinq screen
There are no current announcements about AutoLinq being deployed in production. Continental

Another capability of the teen driver app is called geo-fencing. The parent specifies how many miles away from home their teenage children are allowed to drive. If the car goes out of the proscribed area, it sends a text message alerting the owner to that fact.

Another app demonstrated by Continental is intended for electric cars. It shows nearby charging stations and includes a range map. Instead of a simple radius based on the car's location, the range map shows an area computed based on miles of actual roads. This calculation makes the range area a strangely shaped blob, but it gives the driver a realistic idea of where she can go based on current battery charge.

The interface showed five core apps, with many other apps available by scrolling up the screen. Obviously an automaker implementing this system would design it to minimize distraction, possibly making certain apps inaccessible if the car is under way.

Other apps include navigation with real-time traffic, Pandora, and a vehicle diagnostic system that analyzes any error codes sent up through the car's OBD-II bus and lets the driver know what they mean. For example, rather than a simple check engine light, the system could flash a low-coolant warning.

As an automotive supplier, Continental merely demonstrated AutoLinq as a potential technology for automakers. There are no current plans to deploy the system, although with the growing interest in connected car systems, and the flexibility of the Android platform, automakers are bound to be intrigued.