2016 Technology of the Year Finalist: Android Auto

Your Android Apps, Front And Center

Ever wonder why the tiny little Android-powered computer constantly riding around with you in your car is subjected to a life as a dust collector while you struggle to comprehend the terribly designed infotainment system that resides in the center of your car's dashboard? We feel your pain. Which is why we're so excited by the promise offered up by Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

While most people on our staff tie themselves into the Apple ecosystem, there are some Android users, and everyone was able to test the system using a high-end smartphone. Both systems work exactly as you'd expect, moving things like the navigation, communication, and music streaming services already embedded into your phone out of your pocket and onto you car's LCD screen. Whereas using your phone for directions and text messaging takes your eyes off the road and your hands off the steering wheel, Android Auto keeps your appendages right where they should be, promising to be less distracting and therefore safer. Built-in speech recognition lets you make phone calls or send texts with ease.

While Android Auto doesn't use the exact same interface Google users are used to on their phones and tablets, it's similar enough that there's virtually zero learning curve. Maps brings along voice-guided navigation and turn-by-turn directions, and is programmed to update based on real-time traffic information. A free 60-day trial of Google Play music is included, offering streaming of 30 million songs and access to your own albums and playlists. What's more, as of right now, there are about 50 third-party apps designed to work with Android Auto. Expect that number to grow exponentially in the coming months and years.

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