Google has officially launched its Android Auto connected car solution in the U.S., the UK, and Australia. It is available to drivers who have both a second generation Networked Entertainment eXperience, or NEX, in-dash multimedia receiver from Pioneer. The aftermarket digital dashboard must be partnered with a smartphone running the Android 5.0, or Lollipop, operating system. The Google+ post announcing the launch teased that more hardware partners would be forthcoming. That’s likely to include some deals with car manufacturers for native support of the connected car system; many brands are listed as “coming soon” on the Android Auto website.
Although this is the first arrival of Android Auto in vehicles, Google’s main tech rival Apple has already had its CarPlay solution on the road for months. CarPlay’s tie-up with Pioneer went live last year, with a firmware update bringing the Apple software to five different aftermarket models. Apple also has a long list of vehicle partnerships for native CarPlay support. Even with Apple’s lead, it’s early enough in the lifespan of this technology that either company could end up on top.