Android Automotive OS Improvement on Mac – Grape Up

Much like how they did for the exploding smartphone market over ten years in the past, personalized infotainment working programs and open-source software program seem 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 neighborhood and ecosystem mature sufficient to turn into a severe pressure 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 immediately) 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 automotive itself. This proved to be tough, with each options providing a restricted set of human-machine interplay capabilities, equivalent to a heads-up show (the place accessible) and radio. With that in thoughts, the use case for offering apps for the precise OS working the automotive 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, nevertheless it’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 carried out on an actual system 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 adapt 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 system 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 help 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 personalized {hardware} and parameters. On this case, a customized Android model would have to be constructed from supply.

Constructing from supply

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

A requirement for unofficial builds on Mac gadgets 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, in my view, it wasn’t well worth the bother to arrange an extra partition (for which I didn’t actually have the disk capability).

The selection of the bottom Android launch is essentially depending on the goal system help, nonetheless, for ease of improvement, I’d advocate selecting a current one, e.g., 12.1 (aka 12L or Sv2). Mileage might fluctuate with reference to truly supported variations, as distributors have a tendency to make use of older and extra steady releases.

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

  1. downloading the source code – this may occasionally 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. working 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 just a little 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, embody 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.

To be able 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 could 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 screen is extremely really helpful if connecting via SSH:

display screen                         
. construct/

lunch sdk_car_arm64-userdebug

m -j16      	                # construct the requisite partitions

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

Be aware 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 working 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 isn’t offered, the construct system will attempt to optimize the variety of threads mechanically. Persistence is suggested, as even with respectable {hardware} sources, the compilation is certain to take some time.

The ensuing emulator artifact needs to be accessible within the out/ listing below sdk-repo-linux-system-images.[suffix].zip to be downloaded by way of scp or your file switch consumer of selection.

Operating a customized emulator in Android Studio

Now that now we have our bespoke emulator picture constructed, there’s just a little 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 could be given an arbitrary identify, however the total construction ought to comply with this structure:

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

Second, obtain the instance hooked up bundle.xml file and alter the system identify 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 domestically. After restarting the Android Studio, Gadget Supervisor ought to have an choice to use your brand new ARM image with an Automotive AVD of your selection.

After efficiently working the emulator, a newly created VIN property needs 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 needs 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 helpful – in case you’re in a position to 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 situation, 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 working into any issues, import the library from ~/Library/Android/sdk/platforms/android-32/elective/android.automotive.jar by copying it into libs/ listing within the venture root and add the next directive to your fundamental construct.gradle file, if not current:

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

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

The Actual Deal

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

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

All of the above issues increase the query – easy 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 very least one which gained’t contain third events holding the precise documentation sources for his or her gadgets. It is smart that some doorways will keep closed to the overall programming viewers as a result of safety implications of making apps for vehicles. Nobody, in any case, would need their automobile to be taken management of by a rogue social gathering, would they?

Remaining ideas

Programming for Android Automotive continues to be an adventurous endeavor. Regardless that 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 continues to be in its budding section. This requires one to piece collectively numerous bits of official guides and common Stack Overflow information.

Backside line: AAOS continues to be behind the diploma of engagement that the common Android working system has been having fun with to this point. The longer term is trying shiny, nonetheless, with distributors equivalent 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 help it offers.