Auto Tech

The wait is over, ​Android Auto is finally hitting the road

Starting today, you can get Android Auto in your car with your Android 5.0+ phone and compatible Pioneer head units.

The Pioneer AVH-4100NEX is among the first Android Auto receivers to hit the market this week. Pioneer Electronics

Update on Thursday, 1:58 p.m. PT:Google's Android Auto companion app has been added to the Play Store. We've updated to reflect the new information.

Google's Android Auto smartphone interface for cars is finally hitting the road as the first aftermarket units become available for sale this week. In the US market, the new Pioneer AVIC-8100NEX, AVIC-7100NEX and AVH-4100NEX models will all feature Android Auto integration.

As we saw demonstrated at CES 2015, these units will allow users of compatible Android 5.0 Lollipop smartphones to connect their devices and gain dashboard access to Google's purpose-built, simplified in-car interface for voice activated and touchscreen mirrored hands-free calling, audio and app control, and Google Maps navigation. Android Auto also supports fully hands-free messaging, reading incoming texts aloud and allowing the driver to respond with speech-to-text recognition.

Users will install the Android Auto companion app from the Google Play Store to enable this functionality, which will negotiate the hand off of control from the phone to the in-car receiver. The app also allows drivers to choose what cars can access Android Auto when connected to the phone and which ones to ignore. However, until we can connect to one of the new receivers for testing, the app just shows a pretty splash screen.

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The top of the line AVIC-8100NEX ($1,400) will feature a capacitive touchscreen, while the AVIC-7100NEX ($1,200) steps down to a resistive touch display. Both of these models also feature fully functional onboard navigation software. The least expensive AVH-4100NEX ($700) makes do without Pioneer's on-board navigation software, which shouldn't be an issue for drivers who plan on using their paired smartphone's Google Maps app anyway.

Drivers in the UK can get their first taste of Android Auto with the AVIC-F77DAB, AVIC-F70DAB, AVH-X8700BT. In Australia, there are the AVIC-F70DAB and AVH-X8750BT. Pricing for these markets are forthcoming.

Last year, Pioneer was the first to bring Apple CarPlay to the masses with its 2014 NEX series of aftermarket multimedia receivers. Though also the first with Android Auto, Pioneer won't be the last, as a long list of automakers and car electronics manufacturers are lined up to follow suit with their own compatible offerings, including the 2015 Hyundai Sonata and the Kenwood DDX9902S .