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Android coming soon to your car’s dashboard

Phone home: Most of the world’s car companies will adopt Google’s new Android Auto system that integrates smartphone features with car infotainment, connectivity and sat-nav systems.

40 car brands commit to Google’s new in-car Android Auto connectivity system

26 Jun 2014

TWELVE global auto companies covering 40 car brands have signed up with Google’s new Android Auto system that transplants the functionality of Android-operated voice-activated mobile smartphones into the dash of your car.

But while major companies such as General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen Group, Fiat Chrysler, Hyundai Group, Mazda and Honda have all committed to adopting the system at launch from late this year, the world’s biggest motor company, Toyota, and three of Germany’s top prestige brands – Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Porsche – reportedly have yet to commit to the system.

Android Auto powers navigation, entertainment and communication services via a simple interface built into the car to hook up with the driver’s phone, helping to reduce the risk of driver distraction while potentially making cars cheaper.

Details of the Google Android system were presented at an industry conference in San Francisco yesterday, where Google employees demonstrated features such as turn-by-turn navigation delivered from the phone’s Google Maps app.

Developed by a Google-led group called Open Automotive Alliance involving Audi, GM, Honda, Hyundai and chip-maker NVIDIA, it will compete with rival Apple’s iPhone CarPlay interface, which has been adopted by a handful of car companies thus far.

Interestingly, some auto-makers such as Honda and Hyundai have signed on with both systems. Currently, only iPhones work with the Honda system in Australia.

In the US, Hyundai has announced that its all-new Sonata will be equipped with both the Apple and Google systems when it arrives on that market later this year, but it is yet to be confirmed for the Australian version due either late this year or early 2015.

Hyundai Motor Company Australia public relations general manager Bill Thomas told GoAuto that the Android system was under assessment for the Hyundai range in Australia.

“We are looking at the possibility of it, but it is still not confirmed at this stage,” he said.

Sister company Kia is also preparing to roll out Android Auto overseas, but not immediately in Australia.

At the Google conference yesterday, Kia showed a Soul equipped with a new Kia In-Vehicle Infotainment “integration solution” connected to an Android phone via a USB cable that relays the phone’s features to the car’s big dashboard touchscreen.

Kia Motors Australia public relations manager Kevin Hepworth said KMAu had yet to be briefed on the product plans for the system in this market.

“I am sure it will come at some point, but not in the next 12 to 18 months,” he said.

Instead of car-makers having to equip their new models with sat-nav and other functions, Android Auto piggybacks on phone functions such as Google Maps, Play Music, Google voice search and Google Now.

The car hooks into the smartphone, showing the various functions on the car’s LCD screen and allowing the phone to be controlled via the car’s instruments.

Says Google: “This is accessible through your car’s controls, and more importantly, is far safer than fumbling around with your phone.”

The open system means app-makers can develop more features for the car, saving car-makers the trouble of keeping up with the latest technologies for inbuilt systems.

So far, major car groups to sign up for Android Auto are GM, VW Group, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Hyundai Group (including Kia), Nissan-Renault, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Honda, Subaru, Volvo and Suzuki.

Altogether, these companies cover 40 brands, ranging from Skoda and Bentley in the case of VW, and Dodge, Jeep and Maserati in the case of Fiat Chrysler.

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