Android Auto is the future of mainstream in-car entertainment, and its coming of age is this year's Consumer Electronics Show. I can't wait to get it in my own car.
This is Android Auto:
And these just two of the CES 2015 debuts for Android Auto in the real world, from Google's manufacturing partners, that caught our attention. There are plenty more out now and on the way, but this is just a snapshot.
The Parrot RNB6 has to be the most feature-packed Android Auto headunit introduced at CES this year. Not only does it support Android Auto, with provision for rear-view cameras and an included dashcam all displayed through its 7-inch 720p screen, but it also supports Apple CarPlay. Now, I don't have an iPhone at the moment so I wouldn't be using the CarPlay software myself, but I drive around other people who do, and it's that kind of cross-compatibility that wins big points for Parrot on this one.
The dashcam stands out as a unique feature and one that looks very well integrated -- use it for security, use it for recording what's in front of you while you're driving, or use it for an augmented-reality guide to your satellite navigation destination. The RNB6 also has an OBDII jack, so it'll read from a swathe of sensors in your car (depending on its age, but extending as far as remaining fuel and tire pressure. One potential issue, though -- will the physical buttons be on the other side of the screen when it comes Down Under for our right-hand drive models?
Parrot RNB 6: The most connected infotainment system. A 2-DIN infotainment system, based on Android 5.0 (Lollipop), benefitting from Parrot expertise in terms of Smartphone integration into the car: Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto, integrated navigation system, driving assistance services, hands-free telephony, vocal commands (Apps, music, radio and navigation), dashcam and access to the onboard diagnostics of the vehicle.
Panasonic doesn't have ready-for-sale version of its headunit, but it's a member of the Open Automotive Alliance and as such has its own Android Auto prototype on show at CES 2015. It may not be in as glitzy and glamourous a chassis as its competitors, nor as feature-packed, but in a way that's a very good thing -- it shows that this isn't necessarily a feature restricted to high-end aftermarket car ICE installations nor to the integrated factory offerings of luxury Euro brands. It's for every car.
The Panasonic Android Auto headunit, shown off very well by the guys at Android Central in the video above, is a simple panel-only unit -- no buttons or anything else to ruin the look of your dashboard when it's switched off. In the bezel surrounding the headunit, though, there's a pair of multifunction dials that run a couple of basic duties like controlling volume (useful for if the display freezes) and power (useful if the entire thing freezes). Oh, and it supports Apple CarPlay alongside Android Auto, too.