Android Auto coming to 40 car models this year

Car makers will also be able to develop custom Android Auto apps starting this year

Google is positive about the road ahead for Android Auto, saying it will come to 40 car models and support more apps this year.

Android Auto brings messaging, mapping, entertainment, media playback and other apps to cars, but via a smartphone. The apps run on an Android smartphone, which plugs into an in-car display via a USB port.

Hyundai was first to bring Android Auto to its dashboard, and today ten car models in a few countries have Android Auto. The 40 car models launching this year will give Android Auto a "global" reach, said Daniel Holle, product manager for Android Auto at Google during the Ubiquity Developer Summit in San Francisco this week.

One obvious use for Android Auto is Google Maps, which will provide in-car navigation. Users can also answer calls, listen to music, set up reminders, get the latest news, receive notifications, or use applications like Google Hangout.

Android Auto relies heavily on voice-activated features to ensure driver safety. Notifications received can be narrated, and drivers can respond by speaking back. Like Apple's Siri, the voice-activated Google Now provides the latest news, weather and other relevant information.

Currently Android Auto has about 500 applications. Updates to Android Auto this year will allow playback of more media file types, Holle said.

Car makers will also be able to develop apps for specific car models. The apps will be updated over the air so drivers don't have to go back to dealerships.

Android Auto competes with Apple's CarPlay, which provides a similar way to use the iPhone in a car. About 100 car models in the market or coming soon support CarPlay.

All the major auto makers support Android Auto except Toyota, which is also shunning Carplay.

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