Automakers used to innovate slowly, but this year the race is on for integrating apps into the car, and it is moving at a whirlwind pace. Last year Ford kicked off this new era of car technology by integrating Pandora through its Sync AppLink system, and this year nine other automakers jumped on the bandwagon to some degree.
We were impressed to see both Toyota and GM, in the space of a single year, demonstrate and prepare to launch app integration in 2012 model year vehicles.
App integration means bringing services such as Pandora, Google search, and Twitter into the car. The car maker benefits from the known brand and features of the app, while car owners get the services they know and use on the road.
Although there is a safety argument against putting online services in the car, adding a distraction, automakers are attempting to create safe interfaces. The apps use the car's navigation display, and can be controlled with voice and in-car buttons. That sort of integration is much safer than a driver trying to operate a smartphone with one hand, while steering with the other.
App integration is just starting, but will be present in quite a few 2012 model year cars. Check out our feature on which.