Hyundai will be the first manufacturer to roll out Android Auto

As Hyundai announces the first production car to sport Android Auto, Jack Wallen ponders the importance of this evolution in mobility.

Image: Josh Miller/CNET

Android Auto. Ever hear of it? With a tagline like "The right information for the road ahead", it's hard to believe we haven't been inundated with commercials proclaiming the future of driving has arrived.

Thing is, it has.

Although Android Auto has been out for years, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata will be the first production auto to roll out fully equipped with the system. But what exactly is Android Auto? Don't we all carry that very thing around in our pockets? Sort of, yes. Android Auto will feature:

  • Maps
  • Music
  • Voice control
  • Apps

As I was saying, don't we already have that in the palm of our hands? That's part of the problem. While we drive, we have all that power in our hands. Android Auto could easily serve to change that and help to make driving a bit safer. With the focus on steering and voice-activated controls, Android Auto will make interacting with information exponentially easier. If you're still unsure about the safety factor, here's how Android Auto will work to ensure your ease and safety while on the road:

  • The Google Now card will aid with location, travel time, weather information--all in an easily accessible, intuitive interface.
  • Natural voice recognition, including Google voice actions, means there's no need to look away from the road to interact with entertainment and information
  • Well designed steering controls
  • Personal reminders, suggested destinations, appointments, music, and more will automatically carry from owners Android-powered phones to auto.
  • Android Auto automatically pairs with your Android device (for calls) through bluetooth
  • Lock out unsafe apps

NOTE: The one caveat to Android Auto is that it requires Lollipop for full functionality.

If you happen to already own a 2015 Hyundai Sonata, and it doesn't include Android Auto, you can take the vehicle to your official dealer and they can hook you up. If you don't want to bother with your dealer, the update will be available for users to apply (via USB) Summer 2015.

I strongly believe that Android Auto might well be one of the single most important evolutions in the world of mobility. This is not only adding an additional layer of technology to the auto industry, it's one that could possibly lessen the unnecessary death toll, brought to us by the senseless combination of smartphones and driving. With Android Auto it's even possible to lock out unsafe apps (such as texting), so you're not tempted as you drive. Android Auto is as much about empowering the driver with information as it is empowering the informed driver safely.

In 2011 over 1.3 million auto crashes involved cell phone usage. The likelihood of a crash, while Texting increases by a factor of twenty-three. Anything that can improve that figure should be considered a necessity. Android Auto might be the solution.

This, of course, could also been seen as nothing more than another driver distraction and could find automakers (and even Google) liable for lawsuits. If, however, automakers work with the likes of Android Auto properly (making sure dash screens and steering controls are carefully and logically placed), driver distraction could be dramatically reduced.

Here's the truth. In America, drivers don't need the help of smartphones to be distracted. With radios, billboards, pedestrians, work, home, other drivers...we're already terribly distracted. The addition of a smartphone while driving only manages to pile on the danger. Android Auto could change that--if widespread and used properly.

We've reached the tipping point where mobility will integrate with every aspect of our lives. Information has become as much a part of us as food and water. As mobility creeps further and further into our worlds, it will require evolutions such as what Android Auto brings to the new world order of the auto industry. This will only begin with the Hyundai Sonata. You can bet every car manufacturer in the world will follow suit. If they do so properly, your daily commute might not be quite so dreadful and deadly.

What do you think? Is smartphone integration, the likes of Android Auto, a necessity for modern life? Or are automakers dangling consumers on a dangerous precipice, waiting to push us over?

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By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....