Recently Chevrolet invited us to a private event in Chicago to get a first hand look and demo of their Android Auto and Apple CarPlay equipped vehicles. As technology continues to grow and more and more people are using smartphones and interconnected devices, it only makes sense that the same tech would find its way into the vehicle. Chevrolet is not only embracing the idea of a connected vehicle but they are leading the way with the most models offered with the feature. Take a look at the chart below to get an idea of which vehicles you’ll be able to order with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Currently there are two versions of Chevrolet’s “MyLink Infotainment System,” a 7 inch and 8 inch version. The difference here is that the 8 inch model is for Apple CarPlay only until Android Auto testing is complete. Chevrolet hopes to have that complete by the end of the year (2016 model year) so that Android devices can use the 8 inch system. Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors had this to say about Chevrolet’s in car technology and its future.
The interesting thing about Chevrolet’s Infotainment system is that it works with both Android and iOS so there is no ordering a specific unit for a specific platform. Once you buy the vehicle with the Infotainment (MyLink/Android Auto/Apple CarPlay) system installed all you need to do is plug your phone in via the USB port (location dependent on vehicle) and you’re ready to go. The system will always be defaulted to MyLink and you will see the MyLink interface which gives you access to their mapping system and connection to OnStar emergency service as well as Pandora and a few other media options. Upon plugging in your Android or iPhone you will have the option to choose to switch to that interface. The Infotainment system will bring up the iOS interface if you have an iPhone and the Android interface if you have a supported Android device and launch the Android Auto app. Both the Android and Apple interface have a home button of sorts and to activate Siri or interface with the system you’ll have to actually hold your finger on the screen for a second. In other words, it’s not as fast to react as your smartphone.
Android Auto is built around the Google experience using Google Maps, Google search and Google Now. There’s also WhatsApp and Skype. There’s also a generous list of audio apps to listen to your music such as Google Play Music, Spotify, and podcast players. There are a handful of other apps also available for Android Auto and more that are coming. You can get the full list of supported Android Auto apps from the Android Auto website.
Apple CarPlay is exactly what you would expect, it’s everything that Android Auto is except it uses Apple Maps, native texting and Siri voice search to give you your experience. The nice thing about the whole system is you get the same interface you get on your smartphone so when using Apple Maps, you see Apple Maps. While MyLink and OnStar are still underneath, that interface is pushed to the back so you can seamlessly immerse yourself in your chosen mobile operating system. Chevrolet gave us a demo of CarPlay in Chicago. The video below shows how you can send a text message, ask Siri to play music and ask Siri for directions.
Both Android and Apple versions of the system work with voice commands or a button on the steering wheel, which brings up the point of safety. Chevrolet firmly believes in keeping its drivers safe so the whole system only works with voice and touch. There are no visuals, no YouTube or Netflix apps and you can’t ask Google or Siri to show you pictures of Justin Beiber. This is to keep both driver and others safe and is immensely smart of Chevrolet to do.
Chevrolet has partnered up with AT&T to offer full connectivity and your car will essentially become a rolling hotspot which will allow up to 7 devices to use its signal. I asked Terry Inch, Executive Director, Global Operations and Contact Centers GM, about security measures being taken by GM and Chevrolet in the aftermath of the Jeep hacks. Mr. Inch assured me that Chevrolet has the highest priority flag on user security when it comes to their connected vehicles. They are aware of the Jeep hack and have already checked their own systems for the flaw. Currently Chevrolet’s Infotainment systems have a clean bill of health and they aim to keep it that way. Chevrolet is the first auto maker to hire a Chief Product Cybersecurity Officer (Jeffery Massimilla) who has been intensely making sure their connected products are safe for their users.
I also asked Mr. Inch about Chevrolet’s plans beyond the consumer market and into enterprise. Chevrolet does have its feelers out for potential enterprise ventures when it comes to taxi companies, rental car companies and other such services. He wouldn’t give me any more information though but it’s safe to assume that Apple and Android will make it into those services at some point.
As both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay continue to mature and the apps continue to grow, you’ll see more auto makers following Chevrolet’s lead and offering the systems in more models of cars. Consumers should understand that Chevrolet’s Infotainment system is built around notifications, communications and audio entertainment. This is not a system to pop in your DVD, catch a YouTube video or stream Netflix on. With the built in hotspot, passengers (not the driver) can take advantage of those services through their own wireless devices. Users should also understand that OnStar is still part of the deal and you get the same advantages and services that OnStar has always provided including road side assistance and emergency 911 services.
Overall I like the looks of both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The only thing that still raises my concerns is security. With the amount of hours hackers are putting in to cracking companies systems I hope the companies are putting in double to make sure it doesn’t happen. I do think automakers will start to adopt them sooner rather than later and Chevrolet is already ahead of the bunch with the amount of vehicles offered with the service.
What do you think of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay? Are you considering it in your next vehicle? Let us know down below in the comments and kick off some conversation!