The expansion of YouTube's availability comes as more new vehicles today feature high-tech infotainment systems that promise to add new levels of convenience and entertainment to the lives of drivers and passengers. What that often looks like in practical terms is more screens, both up front for the driver and in the back for passengers.
Many vehicles today can already access YouTube via Android Auto, an app that runs through an Android phone and communicates wirelessly with the vehicle to allow drivers to access their apps on the car's display. However this latest integration is available for cars that have Google built-in. In other words, it's available for cars that are powered by the Android Automotive operating system, which is modeled after a Linux-run open source mobile operating system. Instead of running smartphones and tablets, Google modified it so automakers could use it in their cars, allowing Google apps and services like Maps, Assistant and Play to be integrated directly into the vehicle.
As with other Google-based video and gaming services, YouTube will only be available for passengers and while the car is parked, according to the company.
The Polestar 2 was the first vehicle to have Google built-in, and earlier this year, the automaker said its Polestar 3 will feature Google's HD mapping solution; the YouTube launch is the next logical step. Google expects to announce more automaker partnerships in the coming weeks and months.
Google has announced partnerships with Volvo and Mercedes. It should be noted that the Mercedes deal is a bit different than this broader offering. Mercedes has described it as a licensing agreement that will bring the Google Maps platform, Cloud and YouTube into future Mercedes-Benz vehicles equipped with the automaker’s next-generation operating system called MB.OS.
Google also announced new ways to game in the vehicle at the I/O event. Now, cars with Google built-in will also be able to play games from GameSnacks for Android Auto. GameSnacks is a platform that offers a collection of bite-sized games like Solitaire or Beach Buggy Racing, which are perfect to play while waiting for your car to charge or while you're picking kids up from school.
Google said at its annual developer conference Wednesday that it expects the number of cars with Google built-in to double by the end of this year. The company did not provide a baseline, but already Google is built into vehicles across a range of brands like Chevrolet, Renault, Volvo and Honda, meaning the in-car gaming revolution has even more opportunity to take off.
Others in the auto industry have been pursuing other in-car gaming opportunities. Polestar, along with BYD and Hyundai, is also working with Nvidia to bring the company's on-demand cloud gaming service, GeForce Now, to certain vehicles. Tesla has long offered in-car gaming and last year integrated Steam's library of thousands of games into its vehicles. And last year, BMW partnered with gaming platform AirConsole to bring a collection of single and multiplayer games to new vehicles starting with the 2023 BMW 7 series.