Saab eyes Android-based in-car entertainment system

Posted by Mark Raby

Android developers are soon going to have a whole new system to play with as Saab is turning the keys to its IQon in-car entertainment system over to the Google operating system.

Sure to come pre-loaded with apps like Google Maps, e-mail, and media players, the IQon brings to life the realization brought forth by Google at the advent on Android that it could be used for such a device.

Saab is eager to get its hands dirty with Android and will open up the application  programming interface (API) for third-party developers. That means anyone and everyone will be able to create apps for a special version of the Android Market exclusive to the Saab platform.

Unlike most present-day in-car systems, the IQon will be able to connect to the Internet, with a modem pre-installed that powers up as soon as the drive turns on the ignition. A lot of systems today use outdated radio frequency technology to get very basic data streamed back to them.

Beyond the ability to watch media, get real-time weather and traffic updates, and provide GPS directions as expected, Saab says the platform will actually be able to connect to the car's internal computer, giving developers full access to the inner workings of the vehicle.

That means someone could create an app that keeps drivers informed whenever something happens to their car. It keeps track of inside and outside temperature, steering wheel angle, compass direction, engine speed, and all of the basic information usually presented on the dashboard.

This is just the latest foray for Google's mobile platform, which has already expanded beyond mobile phones to tablets, Barnes & Noble's Nook Color e-reader, Sony's Internet TV, and other set-top boxes.

The only issue that becomes a potential hazard for a car system is the threat of hackers and developers with ill intentions. There could be an app that presents faulty car info or even tries to mess up the car computer. That's why, even though Google wants Android to be a fully open platform, Saab has no choice but to vet every app before it's available on its version of the Android Market.