Android Automotive OS Improvement on Mac – Grape Up

Much like how they did for the exploding smartphone market over ten years in the past, custom-made infotainment working programs and open-source software program look like sweeping the automotive trade. The Android Automotive OS has been making headway in lots of market niches, beginning with full-electric automobiles like Polestar a number of years in the past. It’s solely a matter of time till the group and ecosystem mature sufficient to grow to be a critical drive for enabling cellular improvement on one more entrance: the automobiles.

Whereas Android Auto (a reputation simply confused with the subject I will probably be going over as we speak) and Apple CarPlay have had a long-standing within the discipline, 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 automotive itself. This proved to be troublesome, with each options providing a restricted set of human-machine interplay capabilities, reminiscent of a heads-up show (the place accessible) and radio. With that in thoughts, the use case for offering apps for the precise OS operating the automotive was clearly wanted.

The group and documentation are nonetheless of their infancy and don’t but present a deep dive into Android Automotive OS. Furthermore, the training curve stays steep, nevertheless it’s positively attainable to piece collectively bits of knowledge associated to improvement and deployment. On this article, I try to just do that, all whereas emphasizing the MacOS facet of issues.


As a normal precept, Android improvement can both be finished on an actual gadget or a corresponding emulator. Given the delicate nature of granting functions entry to the precise automotive {hardware}, the app has to go the entire 9 yards with Google Play Retailer eligibility. On high of that, it has to evolve to one in every of a number of classes, e.g. a media app to be allowed within the AAOS system. The excellent news is that there’s a chance 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 carefully matches the specs of the infotainment programs contained inside their automobiles. 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), usually the duty at hand requires custom-made {hardware} and parameters. On this case, a customized Android model would must 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 most effective 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 further steps. I selected a devoted construct system as a result of, in my view, it wasn’t definitely worth the hassle 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, nevertheless, for ease of improvement, I’d advocate selecting a latest one, e.g., 12.1 (aka 12L or Sv2). Mileage might range with regard to truly supported variations, as distributors have a tendency to make use of older and extra secure releases.

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

  1. downloading the source code – this may occasionally take as much as an hour or two, even with first rate 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 accessible, the higher,
  4. packing up the artifacts,
  5. downloading the AVD bundle.

Leaving out the utilization specifics of the lunch and repo for now, let’s check out how we are able to make the default AAOS distribution match our wants a bit higher.

Tailoring a tool

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

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 data from a supposed car 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 guarantee that the obtain takes as little time as attainable.

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 will 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 very really useful if connecting by way of 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 that to not confuse the 2 – solely the previous has emulation capabilities! Attempt operating lunch with out parameters to see a full listing of targets.

The -jXX parameter specifies the variety of threads to make use of whereas constructing the Android. If the thread depend is just not offered, the construct system will try to optimize the variety of threads mechanically. Endurance is suggested, as even with first rate {hardware} sources, the compilation is certain to take some time.

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

Working a customized emulator in Android Studio

Now that now we have our bespoke emulator picture constructed, there’s a bit trick concerned in making it accessible for native improvement with out creating a complete distribution channel, as outlined within the guide.

First, find the ~/Library/Android/sdk/system-images/android-32 folder and unzip your emulator archive there. The listing will be given an arbitrary title, 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 connected bundle.xml file and alter the gadget title to suit your wants. A bundle.xml is added after downloading and unpacking the emulator sources from the Web and must be recreated when unzipping regionally. 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 simple 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 really useful – for those who’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 subject, 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/optionally available/android.automotive.jar by copying it into libs/ listing within the undertaking root and add the next directive to your primary 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 to choose up the Android Automotive library for import and autocomplete options.

The Actual Deal

Emulators are adequate for testing functions, however what about actual units, reminiscent of 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 automobiles. System photographs and implementation particulars, nevertheless, are proprietary and require enrollment into their respective developer partnership applications. Polestar gives a free AVD that emulates Polestar 2 conduct, together with the display measurement, body and {hardware} controls – alas, presently solely accessible 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 could possibly be a serious step within the path of higher {hardware} compatibility.

All of the above considerations increase the query – methods to get the app to work on an actual AAOS inside a automotive? I haven’t discovered a conclusive reply to that query, at the least one which received’t contain third events holding the precise documentation sources 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 automobiles. Nobody, in any case, would need their car to be taken management of by a rogue get together, would they?

Remaining ideas

Programming for Android Automotive remains to be an adventurous endeavor. Although 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 group remains to be in its budding part. This requires one to piece collectively varied bits of official guides and normal 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 this point. The long run is trying vibrant, nevertheless, with distributors reminiscent of 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 group and the assist it supplies.