If you drive a reasonably new car with sophisticated communication technology, you probably have Apple's Carplay or Google's Android Auto on board.

Both systems are based on the idea that data from the smartphone is displayed on the vehicle's on-board monitor.

As a rule, the mobile phone is connected by cable, and recently this has even been possible wirelessly.

A reduced menu on the screen shows selected apps, and Carplay or Android Auto are usually used when it comes to navigation.

The map and navigation instructions are sent to the mobile phone via mobile communications and are then transferred to the monitor.

In this way, a built-in navigation system is unnecessary, and you can also see your calendar entries or new messages on the on-board monitor.

Michael Spehr

Editor in the "Technology and Engine" department.

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Both systems are tied to the smartphone and to a stable mobile phone connection.

So the next step in development is obvious: do without the smartphone and bring the world of Google or Apple directly into the car.

One such system is the new Android Automotive, a fully-fledged Android operating system with mobile communications solely for use in vehicles.

Volvo and Polestar are the first manufacturers to implement it.

We tried Android Automotive in the Volvo V90.

Almost all new Volvos will drive with Android Automotive in the future.

What matters is what plays in the middle

At first glance, the on-board monitor looks like any other Volvo: the 9-inch diagonal display is portrait-oriented, with just a single physical menu button at the bottom, and the bottom tenth of the screen always shows two virtual buttons for more Menus and air conditioning settings.

The decisive factor is what plays in the middle: the individual Android Automotive apps with symbols like on a smartphone.

You log in with a Google account and can immediately access personal data such as the contact directory and calendar and use voice control to give the exact Hey Google commands you are familiar with from cell phones or Google smart home products.

If the car is used by different family members, it is advisable to create a new Google account, or each driver switches accounts when they get into the vehicle.

If you don't want to send any data to Google, you don't register with an account, so you don't have to use the Play Store, but you can of course still use the navigation.

Apps come into the car via the Play Store, and this is where you immediately come across the first limitation: Every app has to be adapted for Android Automotive.

Apart from the Google Assistant and Google Maps, there is currently only a small selection: Spotify, YouTube Music, the ARD audio library, Amazon and Tidal Music, a few radio apps and Sygic navigation.

Volvo contributes additional apps, for example for Bluetooth music playback from a smartphone or for telephony and vehicle functionality.

You don't have to bring a smartphone.

If one is available, it can of course be connected for telephony and music playback, including an iPhone.

The Google Maps navigation works properly, although the gruff tone of the co-pilot is annoying.

However, there is a fine detail: the optical driving instructions are even played into the Volvo's head-up display, which may be available, which is very convincing.

You start the Google Assistant with the voice control button on the steering wheel.

Conventional infotainment "Sensus Connect" is history

With the Google integration, it will then also be possible to control networked devices at home, directly from the car.

For example, you can turn on the light when approaching the house or wake up the vacuum cleaner robot after leaving.

Conversely, commands can be sent from the breakfast table directly to the car, for example to preheat the interior on cold winter days.

Android Automotive is standard on all V90s.

The conventional infotainment "Sensus Connect" is history.

So far it has cost more than 3000 euros in the V90.

Seen in this light, this progress can be welcomed.

Please note, however, that after four years at the latest, a data contract will become due, which is subject to a surcharge.

Incidentally, there is still no counterpart from Apple to Android Automotive.