Android Auto, Google's answer to Apple's CarPlay system, gives drivers the ability to use the mobile software as a GPS, answer calls, respond to messages, and even listen to music. Today, Google announced that users can install Android Auto in their vehicles, so long as their mobile device is running Android Lollipop 5.0.
However, there is a catch. Even if your car is one of the many brands that supports the feature, you will need to install a Pioneer screen unit to get it working. At the moment, only three models are available in the United States. The least expensive model will cost you $700, and the highest-end model is a staggering $1,400.
Those living in the UK also have three models available, while customers in Australia only have two. Pioneer will also bring devices for countries such as Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Mexico and India in the future. Google also mentioned that Pioneer isn't an exclusive partner, and that it will announce more partners later this year.
Android Auto claims to be made with safety in mind so that users won't be distracted while driving. It works by attaching your mobile device to the car via USB, and activating your phone's Bluetooth and Notifications to answer calls and receive notifications for messages, songs, and directions.
Although the interface is touch-based, you can issue most of the commands through voice by pressing the microphone icon at the top right of the screen. You can then issue voice commands to find a route to a location, respond to someone's text message, make a phone call, and bring up your favorite songs. Additionally, the platform also includes a few apps such as Spotify, Skype, and NPR One.
Google seems to be on the right track with Android Auto, not just by making it work with the latest version of Android, but also by the number of car manufacturers that support the feature. These include Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Mitsubishi and Nissan, just to name a few. We wouldn't mind seeing some of them throw in the cost of adding one of those Pioneer units for Android Auto, as the price is still a bit steep.
Follow Rexly Peñaflorida II @Heirdeux. Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.
They definitely have plenty of cheap ones available. I just bought and installed a $250 Pioneer head unit for $250. It's great and was a really easy install. I won't bother listing all the crap it does, but the model number is avh-x2700bs. It talks to my phone just fine and has everything I want, and nothing I don't.
So, they're available. You just haven't been looking.