Chevy bets big with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in 2016 line-up

At a press preview event in San Francisco, Chevrolet demonstrated both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and promised implementations in 10 of its models.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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Chevrolet and Android Auto
Chevrolet will make Android Auto available in most of its 2016 model year vehicles. GM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Announced last year, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are now finding their way into production cars. Both technologies, which mirror Android phone and iPhone functionality on a car's dashboard, will appears as features of the MyLink infotainment system in 10 models from Chevrolet later this year.

At a preview event ahead of today's announcement, Chevrolet demonstrated its implementation of the two technologies in a Spark and a Volt. Along with these two models, Chevrolet will offer the technology in the Cruze, Impala, Malibu, Camaro, Corvette, Tahoe, Suburban and Silverado. Chevrolet cited 14 models to receive the technologies, but only confirmed 10 model names. Availability will begin with 2016 model year cars equipped with either the 7-inch screen or 8-inch screen MyLink infotainment systems.

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Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are being implemented by a range of automakers, each offering an interface and functions in the car powered by their respective phones. As such, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will look the same whether seen in a Volvo, Hyundai, Audi or a Chevrolet. Apple CarPlay relies on an icon-based interface similar to that used on iPhones, while Android Auto shows a tile-based interface which attempts to bring the most relevant information to the fore.

While each technology offers functions such as text messaging, navigation, music and apps, they are limited to voice and touch control so as to be safer in an automotive environment. Apple and Google will severely restrict the types of apps that can be used while driving.

Similar to other automakers' implementations, both iPhones and Android phones must be plugged into the car's USB port to enable the features. During the preview event, Chevrolet User Interface Director Dan Kinney pointed out how the system seamlessly reacts to whichever type of phone gets plugged in, recognizing iOS or Android and bringing up the appropriate interface. The system supports iPhone 5 and newer, or devices with Android Lollipop.

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Kinney said the necessity of having the phones cabled to the car, rather than working wirelessly, comes from Apple and Google. Both the bandwidth of Bluetooth wireless connections and the phone's own battery life factored into the decision to keep phones plugged into the car, although Apple and Google are working on wireless implementation.

Along with new software to support the features in its cars, Chevrolet also had to upgrade its head unit hardware, for example adopting capacitive touchscreens, which will be seen in the 2016 model year vehicles that will feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Chevrolet offers its MyLink infotainment system in other markets, but Kinney would not detail a timeline for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in other markets.

Chevrolet Apple CarPlay
Chevy's MyLink infotainment system will switch to Apple CarPlay when an iPhone is plugged in. GM