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Google, Apple to battle over smart cars at CES

Lexus 2013 CES.jpg

Lexus made headlines during the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show -- but this year Audi may be making waves, thanks to a partnership with Google. (CEA)

Technology giants Google and Apple are about to expand their battle for digital supremacy to a new front: the automobile.

Next week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Google and German auto maker Audi plan to announce that they are working together to develop in-car entertainment and information systems that are based on Google's Android software, people familiar with the matter said.

'The car is becoming the ultimate mobile device.'

- Thilo Koslowski, an analyst at the research firm Gartner

They also plan to disclose collaborative efforts with other automotive and tech companies, including chip maker Nvidia, to establish Android as an important technology for future vehicles, these people said. The aim is to allow drivers and passengers to access music, navigation, apps and services that are similar to those widely available now on Android-powered smartphones, these people added.

The coming announcements signal Google's response to an initiative launched last June by Apple to integrate iPhones and other devices running its iOS operating system with car makers' dashboard control panels. Apple so far has the support of BMW, Daimler's Mercedes-Benz division, General Motors and Honda.

Apple and Google already compete fiercely in an array of digital businesses, ranging from smartphones and tablet computers to mobile apps and Web browsers. With 80 million new cars and light trucks sold each year, automobiles represent a significant new opportunity for Internet-based software and services.

"The car is becoming the ultimate mobile device," said Thilo Koslowski, an analyst at the research firm Gartner who specializes in advanced in-car electronics. "Apple and Google see that and are trying to line up allies to bring their technology into the vehicle."

Read more about Google and Apple's auto ambitions at The Wall Street Journal.

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