New cars to sync cellphones to dashboard

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Automakers, like Hyundai, are turning to partnerships with Android and Apple to incorporate cellphones into a safer driving experience. (KABC)

Like a lot of cars, many versions of the new Hyundai Sonata have a touch screen in the dashboard. But plug your Android smartphone into its USB port and the screen can then mirror the important features of the phone's display.

"At Hyundai, we partnered with Google to introduce Android Auto on the 2015 Sonata," said Brandon Ramirez, a product planner at Hyundai Motor America.

This is probably welcome news to people who much prefer their smartphone operating systems to the ones in many cars.

"Now, the phone behaviors follow you into the dash, in a way that is simplified, so it's not distracting and largely voice-driven," said Brian Cooley, automotive editor at tech website CNET.

Hyundai is first to market, and you can have it retrofitted to late-model Sonatas at no charge. General Motors recently announced that it too will be adding Android Auto next year to 14 Chevrolet models.

"These were the two big volleys that began the war, but the war began a little late," added CNET's Cooley. "We expected this technology sooner. But it shows that working with the car companies, between the mobile and the car companies, is not as easy as I think either party thought it would be."

A similar system to link iPhones called Apple CarPlay is also coming to new cars, and some, if not many, automotive brands will likely offer both in the same car. Though at this point, not every automaker is on board with the idea of letting Google or Apple take over their infotainment systems.

When your phone is hooked into the car, only the features you need while driving are available: navigation, phone, music, and so on. You won't be able to use other apps like games or social media. The goal is to reduce distractions and provide an alternative to fumbling with your phone. In fact, when it's connected to Android Auto, the phone's screen is blanked out.

This could be the wave of the future, as it lets cars stay technologically fresh for much longer.

"We expect every six months to have a new version of our phone operating system," notes CNET's Cooley. "It brings in some great new features and makes it easier to use. And then we get in our car, and 'Wow, it's just like when I bought it five, six, seven, up to 11 years ago now."

So yes, now your car can keep up with your phone and not seem so out of date, especially while you're still making payments on it.
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