Nearly a year after Google announced it was adapting Android to act as a car operating system, the first vehicle using the software has gone on sale from South Korean carmaker Hyundai.
Google demoed its Android Auto operating system at last year's I/O developer conference, and said then it had 40 car companies lined up to use the software. Since then there has been no word on a production system until Tuesday's announcement that the 2015 model Hyundai Sonata will be the first.
"Android Auto aligns with Hyundai's core interior design principles of safety, intuitiveness and simplicity," said Dave Zuchowski, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America in a canned statement.
"We launched this highly anticipated feature on our best-selling Sonata, adding to our promise of value. With the launch of Android Auto, we provide more owners with the experience of cutting-edge technology."
The Sonata is a pretty well-connected car, coming with Bluetooth, a USB port and a built-in eight-inch navigation screen. Owners of the Sonata Sport, Eco, Limited, Sport 2.0T and Limited 2.0T models will be able to link the car to a smartphone running Android 5.0 or better to use the operating system.
To get the OS up and running, Sonata owners will need to download Android Auto onto a USB drive and update the car themselves to add the new operating system. Alternatively, they can plug in their smartphone and upload it directly from the Play Store.
Once it's up and running Hyundai drivers can, via the aforementioned dashboard screen, use Google Maps for navigation, make calls from the phone using voice activation, and use third-party applications developed for the new operating system.
Within reason, of course: Google has billed the Android Auto as a safety feature designed to stop the thousands of accidents caused each year because people use their phones while driving. Once plugged in to Auto, the smartphone screen will shut down so as not to distract drivers, and instead use the voice and touch controls from the dashboard.
Given the amount of lead time Google has taken to get the operating system into a production vehicle, one would hope that there aren't going to be that many software crashes, and none that lead to an actual crash. ®