First Mass Produced Car Using Google's Android On Sale Today


First Mass Produced Car Using Google's Android On Sale Today

Just under a year after Google announced it was adapting its popular mobile phone operating system Android to act as a car operating system, the first vehicle using the software has gone on sale. The car is made by popular South Korean carmaker Hyundai.

Google's Android Auto operating system was demoed at last year's I/O developer conference, where the search giant said that it had 40 car companies lined up to use the software.

Since then there had been no word on a production model until Tuesday's announcement that the 2015 model Hyundai Sonata will be the first.

"Android Auto aligns with Hyundai's core interior design principles of safety, intuitiveness and simplicity," said Dave Zuchowski, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America in a statement.

"We launched this highly anticipated feature on our best-selling Sonata, adding to our promise of value. With the launch of Android Auto, we provide more owners with the experience of cutting-edge technology."

The Sonata is a very modern car containing Bluetooth, a USB port and a built-in eight-inch navigation screen.

Buyers of the Sonata Sport, Eco, Limited, Sport 2.0T and Limited 2.0T models will be able to link the car to a smartphone running Android 5.0 or better to use the operating system.

But things get weird from there.

The operating system isn't actually installed on the car - it must be done by the user.

Sonata owners will need to download Android Auto onto a USB drive and update the car themselves in order to run the new operating system. They can also plug in their smartphone and upload it directly from the Play Store.

Once it's up and running Hyundai drivers will use Google Maps for navigation, make calls from the phone using voice activation, and use third-party applications developed for the new operating system.

Google has billed the Android Auto as a safety feature designed to stop the thousands of accidents caused each year because people use their phones while driving. Once plugged in to Auto, the smartphone screen will shut down so as not to distract drivers, and instead use the voice and touch controls from the dashboard.

The move is interesting because Google's Android tech, specifically its voice control and maps navigation is two or three generations ahead of even the most modern cars. Android can understand complex voice commands, accents and weird names with ease. Modern car entertainment systems cannot.

Android Maps now has the best turn by turn GPS navigation on the market, especially when paired with some of Samsung's newest phones that have very precise GPS modules. Google's latest maps products have extremely detailed traffic data and sophisticated systems to route you around traffic.

On both fronts the tech is clearly better than whatever Hyundai or any of the other car manufacturers are loading on their vehicles.

But the fact it isn't pre-loading onto the Sonata hints at the deep rift between carmakers and Google. Carmakers don't want to be relegated to mere hardware providers, as has happened with the mobile phone market.

In that market only one player is profitable - Samsung. The rest - HTC,Sony,LG,Motorola, - are left to fight for table scraps.

That scares the pants off carmakers. So while they'll test Android for cars don't expect them to jump two feet in any time soon.

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