Techsplanations: Infotainment

If it's been a while since your last new vehicle purchase, you might be surprised by what you see when you get behind the wheel for your next test drive. What was once referred to as the car's radio now more closely resembles a smartphone or tablet. Even apps are finding their way into vehicles these days, but don't be alarmed. These modern "infotainment" systems are designed to enhance--even simplify--your driving experience.

Watch the video above for a simple infotainment overview.

Pairing Your Smartphone

To get the most out of high-tech infotainment systems like Chevy MyLink or Chrysler Uconnect, it's critical that you pair your smartphone. Bluetooth technology will enable you to get connected without the wires.

First, you'll want to be parked in a safe place where you can focus on the task of pairing your device. Many infotainment systems are too smart to allow complex operations while the car is in motion.

Bring up the Bluetooth settings on your phone and verify that your device is "discoverable." This just means that your phone is ready to connect to your car. Then, either use voice commands or toggle through vehicle settings to complete the process. Every system is a little different, so consult your car's owner's manual for specific instructions.

Hands-Free Is The Way to Be

Once you've paired your device, most modern infotainment systems allow for hands-free voice control. For instance, you can make hands-free phone calls over the vehicle's audio system or stream music from a playlist on your connected device.

A steering wheel mounted push-to-talk button is often the method for initiating a voice command. Just press the button and wait for the prompt over the car speaker. Again, consult your owner's manual for a list of applicable voice commands.

Apps Abound

Apps aren't just for your smartphone anymore. Automakers are looking for ways to integrate helpful applications into their cars as well.

Internet radio apps like Pandora and Spotify are natural fits for in-car entertainment, but many of the apps we use to pass the time on our phones could never be operated safely on the road.

Still, as automakers start to open their systems to outside developers, we expect to see more and more audio-driven apps that make clever use of voice commands, allowing you to keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

Bottom Line

Modern infotainment might seem complicated, but what could be easier than using your voice to command your car? It sure beats glancing down at a crinkled map or fussing with your phone while driving. And, best of all, the software can be upgraded and improved throughout the life of your car.

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