Google Built-In will be added to the 11th-generation Honda Accord, laying the foundation for advanced over-the-air updates.

2023 Honda Accord

Honda will use the 11th-generation Accord as a test bed for its first integration of Google — a step that promises the future ability to make changes in existing vehicles.

The system, called Google Built-In, will be offered on the top Touring trim only. It essentially tethers the vehicle to its owner via their Google profile to enable a connected in-car experience without the use of a cellphone.

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Google Built-In has three key apps: Google Assistant, Google Maps and Google Play. It runs through a responsive 12.3-inch touch screen with crisp, clean graphics. Google Assistant is at the center of it all, providing an answer to frequently fussy onboard voice-recognition systems.

But the technology offers more than a streamlined experience for the driver, Honda says. It represents the automaker’s first step toward the next phase of vehicle ownership, which includes the ability to add functions via over-the-air updates.

“What this enables down the road is not just the features it has now, but the ability to over-the-air update to provide a lot of new features and functions that weren’t even developed at the time the car went on sale,” said Jay Joseph, American Honda Motor Co.’s vice president of CASE and Energy.

CASE stands for Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electrified and is a newly created department tasked with accelerating Honda’s initiatives in these areas.

“We think the idea of owning a car that will add function two, three or eight years after it’s been sold can really change the dynamics of the ownership experience and the used-vehicle market,” Joseph said.

“Our focus is really to put the customer in the middle of the equation, so in that sense, the connected-vehicle experience it offers is essential,” he said.

Facilitating over-the-air software updates is not a new idea in automotive.

Joseph says Honda already has been delivering content to many of its vehicles over the air to reflash existing systems or give service updates.

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“The new value of OTA,” he said, “is evolving to include upgrade opportunities.

“By combining the hardware with the software, we can optimize the experience for each individual where they can change functionality or performance after the vehicle purchase.”

In addition to controlling commands such as navigation and music, Google Built-In can operate the climate system. (“Hey Google, turn on the seat heaters for the front passenger.”)

According to Honda, it’s just the first iteration of enabling car functions with technology, and in the future users will be able to accept updates to make their vehicles inherently better or smarter.

In November, Honda announced its Honda Sensing 360 system, which will add more sensors and enhanced collision-avoidance functions to all Honda and Acura vehicles by 2030. That increased sensor capacity could also enable Honda to add features and capabilities after a vehicle is purchased.

“Maybe something requiring additional development, like self-parking or auto summon,” Joseph suggested.

He declined to say whether other Honda vehicles might adopt Google Built-In, but he noted that the concept of layering software on top of hardware fits better with electric vehicles because of how connected they already are.

“The electronic platforms of EVs are more compatible with this network connectivity concept than conventional cars,” Joseph said. “And that creates new possibilities in the electrified era with a software-defined vehicle.”

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