Forget Android Auto, Polestar’s new EV has Google built into the car

On Wednesday, Volvo’s performance brand debuted its first all-electric car, the Polestar 2. But the new  Tesla Model 3 competitor is causing a stir in the auto industry not only for its performance, but for being the first car to feature Google’s native version of Android built for cars.

The first Polestar vehicle (aptly named Polestar 1) was a plug-in hybrid two-door coupe that came out in 2017. The brand’s second car is a bit more practical with four doors and longer battery range, mimicking the price, design, and capability of the Model 3  — Tesla’s more affordable sedan that starts at $42,000.

The Polestar 2 was revealed this morning, but with a $63,000 price tag, way above its more budget-friendly expectations. The company says after the first year it will eventually go for closer to $45,000.

It’s part of Volvo’s commitment to go electric this year and beyond, whether that means hybrids, plug-ins, or all-electric vehicles coming from the Chinese-owned Swedish car company.

A backside look at the upcoming Polestar 2 EV.

A backside look at the upcoming Polestar 2 EV.

The new Volvo car has 275 miles per charge with its dual electric motors and 78 kWh battery and can go 0 to 60 mph in under 5 seconds, but it’s the in-car infotainment system from Google that’s more eye-catching than the EV specs. 

The 11-inch dashboard sits in the center console. This isn’t just any Android Auto system that syncs your Android phone with the car when it’s docked. This is an entirely new Google-powered interface built natively into the car — the first for Google. (We should note: Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are available for drivers to connect their phones to the car.)

A Google screen inside the electric car.

A Google screen inside the electric car.

A smartphone demo from last month showed what the car’s infotainment system will look like in the vehicle, with some usual Google features making an appearance like maps, calendar, phone, and media player available on the home screen. An apps tab opens up the Google Play store. Google Assistant will operate the car’s voice control system. 

Climate control is also available throughout the interface no matter what tab or mode you’re in — something a bit different from the usual smartphone and tablet experience with Google. Remember, this is Google tailor-made for a car, not a digital device. The grid layout comes with default choices, but is customizable.

The home screen looks familiar to any Google and Android users.

The home screen looks familiar to any Google and Android users.

Image: polestar /screengrab

An Easter egg appeared in the app demo showing an overhead view of the car which quickly turned into a video game — maybe a clue of hidden games and features in the Google interface. Again, similar to Tesla and its Easter egg drawer full of games, tricks, and gags, like “fart mode.” 

A quick glimpse of what's to come.

A quick glimpse of what’s to come.

Image: POLESTAR /SCREENGRAB

The car tab on the app pulls up “drive” and “functions,” showing advanced driving features like lane-keeping, curve assist, auto-braking, blindspot alerts, and warnings about speed limit, police cameras, and road signs. Some of those features sound familiar from Google Maps.

Again, it’s similar to Tesla with an in-car tablet that features its own interface. But this is Google, and expect the Android-based features to make its way into other car infotainment systems. 

The car will officially launch at the Geneva Motor Show next month and is supposed to be available in the U.S. by summer 2020. Production in China will start in 2020. A Polestar 3 (the creativity just keeps going) is supposed to join the line-up eventually as another all-electric vehicle like the Polestar 2. Expect more Google features if the partnership works out with this car.

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