Not so fast, Apple CarPlay. The technology sat atop the connected car heap unchallenged for a brief period, yet there’s already a challenger. Practically right out of the gate, Google is hot on Apple’s heels with the newly announced Android Auto, which will (just like CarPlay) allow users to project their smartphone’s interface onto the vehicle’s built-in touchscreen.
Connecting is for now still a wired affair—hooking up to Android Auto is fortunately as simple as just plugging a modern Android smartphone into an in-car USB port. Not only will users be able to see their phone’s music, Google Maps navigation, and other apps (like Spotify and iHeartRadio) working on the screen, but Google says they’ll be able to use these functions using either hands-free voice activation or their car’s existing, built-in controls. In the end, it’s a more logical and universal answer to the question of how to best connect smartphones and cars.
“You get the connected apps and services on your smartphone, with the physical controls that were optimized for driving in your car,” said Android director of engineering Patrick Brady, in a company YouTube video.
The big question, of course, is whether automakers will make their cars compatible with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, or if they’ll play favorites. So far both Audi and Volvo are confirming that compatibility with Android Auto does not exclude other systems from compatibility. Google says that Android Auto will begin appearing in production vehicles later this year. Acura, Audi, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, and Volvo have already confirmed their cars will offer Android Auto functionality.