CarPlay and Android Auto: What’s Happening at General Motors?

The connected car has arrived. If you don’t have a new vehicle, you may not have noticed all the technology that’s now lurking in the dashboard. But the next time you buy a car–even a late model used one–you’ll be sucked into this world.

I’m still discovering what the thing in my dash can do. Just the other day I discovered that my car’s CD player–something I never use–is capable of playing Blu-ray audio CDs. I’ve been sent dozens of these things and now I have a place to play them.

The next thing for me, though, is CarPlay, Apple’s infotainment interface. The idea of being able to replicate the UI on my phone (at least in part) with the UI in my dashboard is something of a Holy Grail for me. CarPlay is beginning to filter into some automobiles already (check out what the soon-to-be-released 2017 Porsche 911 offers) while Google’s Android Auto is also making major inroads.

Despite the advantages to consumers–I mean, who wouldn’t want to seamlessly integrate their smartphone into their car’s electronics?–a lot of manufacturers are wary of giving away so much power to a third party. That resistance, however, is breaking down–if ever so slightly. The Verge talks to the CarPlay/Android Auto man at GM.

If you’ve bought a car in the last decade, you probably think of “infotainment” as a four-letter word.

The touchscreens in the centers of our dashboards have been, to put it bluntly, bad. In some ways, they’re finally starting to catching up: the user interfaces are crawling, slowly, out of the stone age. They’re getting bigger, which makes them easier to see and to use. Touch response times are getting better. And with the advent of CarPlay and Android Auto, there’s a decent way to use our smartphones on the road without endangering the lives of everyone around us. Still, there’s a lot of work to do.

That’s where people like GM’s Phil Abram come into play. Abram — who has stints at Sonos and Sony on his résumé — led the company’s adoption of CarPlay and Android Auto, which will eventually reach just about every vehicle GM sells in the US. He’s also coming off a connected car deployment in China after rolling out in Europe and North America, where LTE currently ships on 16 models.

But the challenges still loom large: as we discovered in our own reviews, neither CarPlaynor Android Auto are perfect, nor is the hardware that lies underneath. We sat down with Abram this week to find out where he stands on the connected car — and how it’ll change in the age of smartphones, ubiquitous high-speed data, Tesla, and the upcoming Chevy Bolt.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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