Chevy to offer Apple CarPlay, Android Auto in vehicles

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

General Motors Co. will offer customers both Apple CarPlay and Google's Android Auto beginning this summer as it rolls out the technology on 2016 model-year Chevrolet vehicles. The company is believed to be the first in the auto industry to launch both systems in its vehicles and says it will offer the two systems' compatibility in more models than any other carmaker.

Seven Chevy vehicles will offer both CarPlay and Android Auto when their 2016 models hit showrooms; they include the next-generation Chevrolet Cruze which debuts to the press June 24; a total of 14 Chevy models will have Apple CarPlay available upon their introduction. GM said it is working with Android Auto on other vehicles' compatibility that it hopes to add later in the 2016 model year. Buick, Cadillac and GMC vehicles also soon will get the functionality of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in the future, a spokesman said.

When users plug their iPhone into a vehicle's infotainment system with a USB cable, the dashboard screen will look a lot like the iPhone screen with messages icons and apps such as Spotify, said Alicia Boler-Davis, GM's senior vice president of Global Connected Customer Experience. Android users will see a familiar, simple layout with Google Now and Google Maps.

CarPlay and Android Auto allows drivers access and control from the car's infotainment screen to see their smartphone's song playlists; view maps or get turn-by-turn directions; make and receive calls; and send and receive text messages hands-free. Boler-Davis said contacts and calendars from smartphones also can be accessed from the infotainment screen.

Chevy says some third-party apps will be available to work with the systems. Not all apps will work. Many functions are available using the car's touchscreen or using a button on the steering wheel. Many functions work with voice commands, helping to keep drivers' eyes on the road.

GM CEO Mary Barra made the Chevy announcement Wednesday in Rancho Palos Verdes, California during the Code conference, hosted by tech news website Re/code.

"For most of us, our smartphones are essential," Barra said in a statement. "Partnering with Apple and Google to offer CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility across the widest range of models in the industry is a great example of how Chevrolet continues to democratize technology that's important to our customers."

The Detroit automaker may be the first to offer both systems in cars, but it likely will be followed by many other carmakers. Some companies reportedly are planning to offer both systems including Audi, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Subaru, Jeep, Dodge, Chrysler, Mazda and Volvo.

GM opted to partner with leaders in the connected space to help give customers what they want and are familiar with, while helping cut down on driver distraction, Boler-Davis said.

The carmaker decided to offer both systems to reach the largest population of smartphone users, said Saejin Park, director of innovation, strategy and planning for GM's Global Connected Customer Experience. Android and Apple are the two largest volume players and Park said Android and Apple smartphones represent about 70 percent of U.S. cellphone users.

"If you're an iPhone user and someone gives you an Android phone, it's really annoying," Park said. "And I have friends who are Android users and they will scoff at my iPhone."

"No two customers are alike and we simply cannot expect one single solution that works for every driver, every day in every situation," Boler-Davis added.

A recent J.D. Power U.S. tech-choice study found that consumers with a smartphone compatible with Apple CarPlay or Google Android Auto technologies would choose the technology that works with their phone at a "moderate rate," while those with other smartphones would "rarely, if ever, choose that technology." Owners of luxury vehicles tend to own iOS devices, so J.D. Power said luxury brands may benefit by offering Apple CarPlay.

Chevy said the systems will be free to customers, but they will have to pay for data used while their phones are connected to the car. For example, Android Auto says one hour of streaming music connected through the car's infotainment system will use as much data doing the same thing outside your car. GM's vehicles also have embedded OnStar 4G LTE mobile Internet connections and GM and partner AT&T sell data plans.

Drivers will have to download the Android Auto app from Google Play. Google says most Android phones that run Android 5.0 Lollipop will work. For the Apple CarPlay system, iPhone users will need iPhone 5 versions and up and phones with the iOS 7.1 operating system.

Ferrari currently has cars on the road equipped with Apple CarPlay and it's available in aftermarket products sold through Pioneer and Alpine.

On Tuesday, Hyundai Motor America said it became the first automaker to offer Android Auto on a production car with the 2015 Hyundai Sonata with navigation. A Hyundai spokesman said the company is working with Apple to make it available in the Sonata soon and it will make available CarPlay and Android Auto on more Hyundai vehicles in the future.

Android Auto says it is working with other car brands such as Alfa Romeo, Acura, Audi, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Infiniti, Jeep, Kia, Maserati, Mazda, Nissan, Ram, Subaru, Volkswagen and others. Apple has said CarPlay will be available on 40 vehicle models by the end of 2015.

Chevy isn't making the technology available on some of the its most popular vehicles such as the Equinox and Traverse SUVs and new Trax SUV because they have an older radio, a spokesman said. Expect them to get the technology in a future model year.

Even with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto systems, GM says the systems won't replace their infotainment systems or services it offers to OnStar customers such as turn-by-turn navigation. GM said some customers want built-in features, while others want to bring the service into their car.

GM also is still actively working on its AppShop, a built-in feature to the infotainment system, said Ray Wacek, product manager of phone integration for Chevrolet.

AppShop, which GM in July 2014 said was delayed following reviews from internal testers, would allow drivers to download music, news, travel and vehicle information apps, similar to downloading apps on their smartphones or tablets.

"This is a complement to it," Wacek said.

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2016 Chevys equipped with Apple CarPlay and Google's Android Auto

Vehicles available with 7-inch MyLink infotainment screen and offering both systems at launch : Spark, Cruze, Malibu, Camaro, Camaro convertible, Silverado, Silverado HD

Vehicles available with 8-inch MyLink infotainment screen offering Apple CarPlay at launch : Cruze, Malibu, Impala, Volt, Camaro, Camaro convertible, Corvette, Corvette convertible, Colorado, Silverado, Silverado HD, Tahoe and Suburban

Source: General Motors Co.