Home Your Car’s Digital Dashboard Might Be Made By … HTC?

Your Car’s Digital Dashboard Might Be Made By … HTC?

According to a detailed but unsourced and unverified Reddit post (via 9to5Google), a dark horse might soon join the race to digitize your car dashboard: the only sorta-successful smartphone maker HTC, which is supposedly working on an Android-based automotive system called Cello.

It sounds sort of preposterous, given that HTC would be going head-to-head with the likes of Google and Apple. And at the moment there’s no way to know whether anything about this rumor is true, either; HTC certainly isn’t saying.

But if you stop to think about it, there’s really no reason HTC shouldn’t take this idea out for a spin. The automotive software market is in its infancy, making it anyone’s race to lose. And striking out on its own at least offers HTC a last chance power drive, whereas sticking to the Android Auto software championed by its partner Google would more or less doom it to obscurity in the automotive field.

Avoiding Google’s Clampdown

Shortly after Google demonstrated Android Auto (and Android TV and Android Wear) at its 2014 I/O conference, the company made clear that it was going to keep hardware manufacturers like HTC on a tighter leash where those specific-use Android variants were concerned. In particular, their freedom to customize the user interface would be sharply curtailed; Google engineering director David Burke said the company wanted all Android cars, for instance, to look and work the same.

That’s a big change from the Android free-for-all that characterizes the smartphone market. And it apparently hasn’t sat well with HTC and its hardware rivals Samsung and LG, who’ve been looking increasingly restive where it comes to software for cars, TVs and smartwatches.

See also: Hey, Samsung, LG And HTC—Shunning Android Wear Is A Huge Mistake

In the worlds of wearables and smart televisions, both LG and Samsung have struck out on their own, ditching Android Wear and Android TV for hardware that runs versions of webOS and Tizen, respectively. HTC, meanwhile, has yet to release the Android Wear smartwatch that’s supposedly been in the works since at least 2014, opting instead to release a new fitness tracker called the Grip.

Even with all the discord, Android Wear actually made it into the market with strong developer support. The same can’t be said for Android Auto, which has yet to make any kind of appearance in the real world.

To be fair, none of Android Auto’s competitors have done much but start their engines, either. Even Apple, which has talked up its CarPlay dashboard system and hasn’t done much to bat down rumors of its own possible Apple Car, has yet to make a meaningful dent in the automotive world.

So it’s not hard to imagine HTC’s executives—who are already inordinately proud of the HTC Sense interface they slap onto their Android smartphones—looking at the vehicular market and thinking, “Why not us?”

Hello, Cello

A Reddit user going by the name “mr_bartek” offered up details of the supposed Cello system via an image said to depict a test log:

An alleged test log of HTC’s automotive OS, “Cello.”

Cello is supposedly based on Android 4.4 KitKat with—you guessed it—an automobile-optimized version of the HTC Sense interface running on top. The Reddit post similarly claims that Cello is being tested with equipment ranging from night-vision and sonar systems to DVD players, tire-pressure monitors, navigation and GPS.

That’s a long list of interesting features. But take them all with a grain of salt, given their provenance. Stay tuned.

Android Auto images courtesy of Google; Cello image via mr_bartek on Reddit

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