Google Inc.’s new Android Auto interface is now available in the 2015 Hyundai Sonata, the companies said today. This makes Hyundai the first automaker to offer a system that could be sold in millions of vehicles in the coming years as customers seek cars that work seamlessly with their smartphones.
The launch in the Sonata is a big win for Hyundai, which had raced to be first to offer Android Auto, and for Google, which could get its sleek, colorful system into tens of thousands of cars before its archrival Apple Inc. can do the same with its iPhone interface, known as CarPlay.
Customers may not be willing to do without Android Auto once they try it for the first time, said Cason Grover, a senior manager at Hyundai Motor America who works on connected-car technology. One day when he got into his car to leave for a business trip, Android Auto asked whether he wanted to set the airport as his destination; the system had tapped into his Google calendar and knew he had a flight departing in a couple of hours.
“Within not too many years, this could become almost a ubiquitous technology in the industry,” Grover said in an interview. “We have a great opportunity by being early because it’ll be a differentiator for us for hopefully quite some time. I think customers will very quickly start to see the benefit and see the reason to seek out a vehicle with this technology.”
Work on Android Auto began in early 2014, when Hyundai, along with Audi, General Motors and Honda, joined a Google-led group called the Open Automotive Alliance.
Google unveiled Android Auto last June at its I/O developer conference, pitching it as a safer, easier way to make phone calls, listen to music apps and use Google’s mapping service behind the wheel. Android Auto also supports some third-party apps, such as the Spotify streaming music service. More are on the way.
To use Android Auto, the customer physically plugs a smartphone into a car’s dashboard. As the Android Auto icon lights up on the car’s screen, the screen of the smartphone is locked, easing the temptation to fiddle with it while driving.
Dozens of automakers have now pledged to use Android Auto. Ford, GM, Honda and Volkswagen are expected to sell cars with the interface within a year. Read more here.
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