Google became the latest to try to stake a claim on the car, with an announcement  this morning of plans for bringing Android to cars. Audi, GM, Honda, Hyundai, and NVIDIA say they plan to work with Google, as part of the Open Automotive Alliance , to build Android into their vehicles.
The car manufacturers said very little about what kind of functionality they’re looking to enable. But they follow others who have aligned with Apple  and Microsoft to allow drivers to do things like use voice commands to hear emails read to them or to send text messages, hands free.
If you’re an Android user and you buy one of the cars with the system, you’ll be happy. Don't let the word "Open" in the name of the organization fool you. Google made it clear that its goal is to create a link between Android devices and cars. The FAQ on the new Open Automotive Alliance web site notes: “We're working with our partners to enable better integration between cars and Android devices in order to create a safer, car optimized experience.”
Likewise, it's a safe bet that users of future cars running the iOS in the Car platform will be better off if they have an iOS phone. Apple typically builds a closed ecosystem.
In the short term, many of the car companies are likely to pair with just one of the software providers. That’s not great news for users. People are unlikely to choose a car based on its software and whether it matches their phone. For people who end up with a mismatch -- an iPhone owner with a car running the Android in-car experience, for instance -- the experience may not be very good.
The ideal scenario is that car companies will enable multiple software platforms in their cars. That way users can choose which they want and potentially even switch platforms.
That’s probably a far shot but there’s some hope. Honda is part of the Open Automotive Alliance and has also said it will support iOS in the Car. In December, Honda began offering Siri Eyes Free , handsfree software for some of its cars that lets iPhone owners use Siri in the car by pressing the “Talk” button on their steering wheel.
Some existing car owners can get the new software by visiting a Honda dealership, although some have complained  that the download hasn’t worked or dealers aren’t familiar with Siri Eyes Free. Ironically, Honda used a Google Hangout to announce the Siri Eyes Free availability, perhaps further indicating that the car manufacturer is open to working with multiple software providers.
Microsoft has been in the car software business for longer than its competitors and has arrangements with  Ford, Fiat, Nissan, and Kia, which has also shown off an Android based infotainment system. Microsoft’s Ford Sync product has not always been met with great reviews  but many say it is improving.
Whether or not automotive companies, like Ford with its long-time Microsoft partnership, decide to embrace multiple platforms is still uncertain. But it’s a good bet that the increased competition will result in higher quality products, at least for people who have a compatible phone.