Android Automotive OS Growth on Mac – Grape Up

Just like how they did for the exploding smartphone market over ten years in the past, personalized infotainment working programs and open-source software program look like sweeping the automobile business. The Android Automotive OS has been making headway in lots of market niches, beginning with full-electric autos like Polestar a number of years in the past. It’s solely a matter of time till the neighborhood and ecosystem mature sufficient to turn out to be a critical power for enabling cell improvement on yet one more entrance: the vehicles.

Whereas Android Auto (a reputation simply confused with the subject I will likely be going over at this time) and Apple CarPlay have had a long-standing within the area, they got here with a number of caveats and restrictions. These largely pertain to the truth that many features-to-be would depend on low-level entry to the {hardware} of the automobile itself. This proved to be troublesome, with each options providing a restricted set of human-machine interplay capabilities, akin to a heads-up show (the place out there) and radio. With that in thoughts, the use case for offering apps for the precise OS operating the automobile was clearly wanted.

The neighborhood and documentation are nonetheless of their infancy and don’t but present a deep dive into Android Automotive OS. Furthermore, the educational curve stays steep, but it surely’s undoubtedly doable to piece collectively bits of data associated to improvement and deployment. On this article, I try and do exactly that, all whereas emphasizing the MacOS facet of issues.


As a common precept, Android improvement can both be executed on an actual gadget or a corresponding emulator. Given the delicate nature of granting functions entry to the precise automobile {hardware}, the app has to go the entire 9 yards with Google Play Retailer eligibility. On prime of that, it has to evolve to one in all a number of classes, e.g. a media app to be allowed within the AAOS system. The excellent news is that there’s a risk for an app to combine and match classes.

Thus, distributors supporting the brand new ecosystem (as of now, amongst others, Volvo and Polestar) opted for making a customized automotive gadget emulator that intently matches the specs of the infotainment programs contained inside their vehicles. Regrettably, Polestar and Volvo emulators comprise proprietary code, are based mostly on older Android releases, and don’t but assist the ARM structure, which is of particular curiosity to builders working with ARM-based Macs.

Whereas official AAOS emulators can be found in Preview releases of Android Studio (from the Electrical Eel model onwards), typically the duty at hand requires personalized {hardware} and parameters. On this case, a customized Android model would should be constructed from supply.

Constructing from supply

Constructing from supply code is a time-consuming enterprise that’s not formally supported outdoors 64-bit Linux platforms (whatever the goal structure). With that in thoughts, selecting a devoted AWS EC2 occasion or a naked metallic server for constructing the ARM variations of the emulator appears to be the very best total answer for Mac builders.

A requirement for unofficial builds on Mac units appears to be having a disk partition with a case-sensitive file system and in any other case following some additional steps. I selected a devoted construct system as a result of, for my part, it wasn’t definitely worth the bother to arrange a further partition (for which I didn’t actually have the disk capability).

The selection of the bottom Android launch is basically depending on the goal gadget assist, nonetheless, for ease of improvement, I might suggest selecting a latest one, e.g., 12.1 (aka 12L or Sv2). Mileage might fluctuate with regard to really supported variations, as distributors have a tendency to make use of older and extra steady releases.

After getting their palms on a improvement machine, one ought to prepare the build environment and observe instructions for building an AVD for Android Auto. The overall workflow for constructing ought to embrace:

  1. downloading the source code – this will likely take as much as an hour or two, even with respectable connection and department filtering,
  2. making use of required modifications to the supply, e.g., altering the default VHAL values or XML configuration,
  3. operating the construct – once more, might take as much as a number of hours; the extra threads and reminiscence out there, the higher,
  4. packing up the artifacts,
  5. downloading the AVD package deal.

Leaving out the utilization specifics of the lunch and repo for now, let’s check out how we will make the default AAOS distribution match our wants somewhat higher.

Tailoring a tool

VHAL (Car {Hardware} Abstraction Layer) is an interface that defines the properties for OEMs to finally implement. These properties might, for instance, embrace telemetry information or maybe some information that might be used to determine a selected automobile.

On this instance, we’re going so as to add a customized VIN entry to the VHAL. This may allow app builders to learn VIN info from a supposed automobile platform.

First off, let’s begin with downloading the precise supply code. As talked about above, Android 12.1 (Sv2) is the discharge we’re going to go together with. It helps model 32 of the API, which is greater than sufficient to get us began.

With a purpose to get sources, run the next command, having put in the source control tools:

<p>> repo init -u -b android-12.1.0_r27 --partial-clone --clone-filter=blob:restrict=10M</p>

<p>> repo sync -c -j16</p>

Partial clone functionality and selection of a single department be sure that the obtain takes as little time as doable.

After downloading the supply, find the DefaultConfig.h file and add the next entry to kVehicleProperties:

.config =
             	.prop = toInt(VehicleProperty::INFO_VIN),
             	.entry = VehiclePropertyAccess::READ,
             	.changeMode = VehiclePropertyChangeMode::STATIC,
 .initialValue = .stringValue = "1GCARVIN123456789",

An outline of HAL properties may be discovered within the reference documentation.


Having modified the default HAL implementation, we’re now free to run the construct for an ARM goal. Run the next directions contained in the AAOS supply listing – utilizing a display is extremely beneficial if connecting via SSH:

. construct/

lunch sdk_car_arm64-userdebug

m -j16      	                # construct the requisite partitions

m emu_img_zip                   # pack emulator artifacts right into a downloadable .zip

Word the sdk_car_arm64-userdebug goal wanted for emulation on ARM-powered Macs. A car_arm64-userdebug variant additionally exists. Be sure to not confuse the 2 – solely the previous has emulation capabilities! Strive operating lunch with out parameters to see a full checklist of targets.

The -jXX parameter specifies the variety of threads to make use of whereas constructing the Android. If the thread rely just isn’t offered, the construct system will try to optimize the variety of threads mechanically. Persistence is suggested, as even with respectable {hardware} assets, the compilation is certain to take some time.

The ensuing emulator artifact ought to be out there within the out/ listing below sdk-repo-linux-system-images.[suffix].zip to be downloaded through scp or your file switch consumer of alternative.

Working a customized emulator in Android Studio

Now that we’ve got our bespoke emulator picture constructed, there’s somewhat trick concerned in making it out there for native improvement with out creating a complete distribution channel, as outlined within the handbook.

First, find the ~/Library/Android/sdk/system-images/android-32 folder and unzip your emulator archive there. The listing may be given an arbitrary identify, however the total construction ought to observe this format:

|_ [your name]
   |_ arm64-v8a
E.g., ~/Library/Android/sdk/system-images/android-32/custom_aaos/arm64-v8a.

Second, obtain the instance hooked up package deal.xml file and alter the gadget identify to suit your wants. A package deal.xml is added after downloading and unpacking the emulator sources from the Web and must be recreated when unzipping domestically. After restarting the Android Studio, System Supervisor ought to have an choice to use your brand new ARM image with an Automotive AVD of your alternative.

After efficiently operating the emulator, a newly created VIN property ought to be seen within the Vhal Properties of Automotive Information. Good one!

Whereas studying VHAL property values is out of the scope of this text, it ought to be straightforward sufficient with a few Automotive library calls, and Google created an example app that does the very factor.

Downloading the above instance (CarGearViewerKotlin) is extremely beneficial – in the event you’re capable of construct and run the app on the emulator, you’re all set!

Facilitating AAOS improvement on M1

One of many issues I stumbled upon through the improvement surroundings setup was that the Automotive library was not being detected by Android Studio, whereas the app nonetheless builds usually from CLI. This seems to be a recognized challenge, with no official patch but launched (as of October 2022). Nonetheless, a easy workaround to incorporate a .jar of the Android Automotive library seems to work.

In case of operating into any issues, import the library from ~/Library/Android/sdk/platforms/android-32/non-obligatory/android.automobile.jar by copying it into libs/ listing within the undertaking root and add the next directive to your principal construct.gradle file, if not current:

	implementation fileTree(embrace: ['*.jar'], dir: 'libs')

As soon as the undertaking is re-imported into the IDE, Android Studio ought to be capable of decide up the Android Automotive library for import and autocomplete ideas.

The Actual Deal

Emulators are ample for testing functions, however what about actual units, akin to branded infotainment facilities? As talked about earlier than, at the least two main distributors (Volvo and Polestar) supply the built-in Android Automotive expertise out-of-the-box of their autos. System photos and implementation particulars, nonetheless, are proprietary and require enrollment into their respective developer partnership packages. Polestar presents a free AVD that emulates Polestar 2 conduct, together with the display dimension, body and {hardware} controls – alas, presently solely out there for x86-64 platforms.

One of many alternate options value contemplating is the set up of Android Automotive on an actual gadget – be it a pill or perhaps a Raspberry Pi platform. Some modules will nonetheless require virtualization, however switching to a bodily gadget might be a serious step within the path of higher {hardware} compatibility.

All of the above issues increase the query – find out how to get the app to work on an actual AAOS inside a automobile? I haven’t discovered a conclusive reply to that query, at the least one which received’t contain third events holding the precise documentation assets for his or her units. It is sensible that some doorways will keep closed to the overall programming viewers as a result of safety implications of making apps for vehicles. Nobody, in spite of everything, would need their automobile to be taken management of by a rogue celebration, would they?

Closing ideas

Programming for Android Automotive remains to be an adventurous endeavor. Though the system has been round since 2017 (with APIs open to public in mid-2019), official documentation can nonetheless really feel considerably inaccessible to newcomers, and the developer neighborhood remains to be in its budding part. This requires one to piece collectively varied bits of official guides and common Stack Overflow information.

Backside line: AAOS remains to be behind the diploma of engagement that the common Android working system has been having fun with to date. The longer term is trying shiny, nonetheless, with distributors akin to GM, Honda, BMW, and Ford keen to leap on the automotive improvement bandwagon in years to return. If that’s the case, the ecosystem will inevitably develop – and so will the neighborhood and the assist it offers.