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2015 Los Angeles Auto Show

justin brotton - Friday, January 01, 2016


By Paul Santana 

Founded in 1907, the Los Angeles Auto Show is the first major North American auto show of the season each year. In its more recent years, the L.A. show has become primarily known as the place to unveil the types of cars most commonly found in southern California – convertibles and fuel efficient electrics/hybrid vehicles. This year there were over 50 vehicle debuts, with some of the most noteworthy being of the SoCal drop-top variety.

2017 Porsche 911 Targa 4S

When it comes to open-air cockpits, few automotive pedigrees are more recognizable than that of Porsche. With a top speed of just under 190mph, the 2017 Porsche 911 Targa 4S is both pleasing to the eye and a beast on the track. The Targa is propelled by 420 HP to 60mph in just 4.2 seconds, but the newest 911 is about more than just performance. The body lines are unmistakably Porsche, yet the front and rear of the car have been completely revamped for 2017. The 7-speed gearbox promises smooth and sporty gear changes, while also improving fuel economy, which is good because the 911 has always been a great choice for the daily commute. Active air intake flaps behind the front grill help to reduce fuel consumption by closing while at speed to reduce drag, and only opening when cooling is necessary. Other efficiency systems include Auto start/stop, which turns off the engine when the driving speed falls below 5mph while decelerating, as you are coming to a stop. Once you release the clutch or hit the accelerator, the engine restarts instantly. Porsche’s Doppelkupplung (PDK) automatic transmission offers a coasting function that decouples the engine from the transmission to avoid deceleration caused by engine braking. In doing so, the vehicle’s momentum allows the new Targa to coast for longer distances on its own accord. Aggressive engineering to perform when needed, but comfortable and fuel efficient enough to get you through even the worst OKC stop-and-go traffic. Like any Porsche, it’s not cheap, with pricing for the new 911 Targa starting at just over $122,000.

2017 Mercedes-Benz S Class Cabriolet

Mercedes’ promise: “The best, or nothing” – a statement brought to life through their unique combinations of luxury and performance designs, and the new S-Class Cabriolet fits Mercedes’ image perfectly. A class leader in aerodynamics, the S-Class Cabriolet promises a new benchmark in air efficiency, with an optimally designed interior meant to glide effortlessly though the wind. With room for four, the Cabriolet’s sleek drop-top design is more than just eye-catching. Whether you prefer top up or down, Mercedes’ new THERMOTRONIC intelligent climate control utilizes 12 sensors and 18 actuators to automatically ensure your cabin is always the perfect temperature. AIRSCARF neck heating helps to allow top-down driving in even the coolest Oklahoma temperatures, and the available exclusive design handcrafted nappa leather surrounds the occupants in the ultimate lap of luxury. As for the second half of the luxury-performance equation, the new S-Class Cabriolet doesn’t disappoint – for a convertible, it is exceptionally rigid. Innovative material integrations such as the luggage compartment comprised of lightweight yet strong aluminum and magnesium, as well as aluminum rear floor sections, help to lower the convertible’s body weight to that of the S-Class Coupe. A 4.7L bi-turbo V8 engine produces 449HP, and is coupled with a 9G-TRONIC 9-speed automatic transmission, which reaches 60mph in just 4.5 seconds (even faster in AMG trim). Safety in a convertible is always a concern, so Mercedes provides a standard roll-over protection system behind the rear head restraints. New safety features include pyrotechnic initiation of the actuators, in addition to the roll bars themselves, which are moved into position via a gas generator in an instant once a rollover scenario is detected. Intelligent Drive Systems such as Active Lane Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, and DISTRONIC Plus (a fancy name for adaptive cruise control), help to keep the rubber side down. The S-Class Cabriolet is set to go on sale early summer 2016, with pricing expected north of $125,000.

2016 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Convertible

Touted as “The world’s first premium compact SUV convertible,” the 2016 range Rover Evoque Convertible is one of those love-it-or-hate-it designs. It’s rare to see an SUV convertible, and while it has been done before (Nissan Murano Cross Cabriolet), the SUV market has yet to see success in a drop-top. Off-road vehicles and open skies go together well, with models such as the Jeep Wrangler selling plenty, but Range Rover owners aren’t your typical off-road crowd. Don’t get me wrong, Land Rovers are very capable off-road vehicles, but studies have shown that only about 15 percent of all 4x4 vehicles ever even see a dirt road, and Range Rover percentages are even lower. That being said, the 2016 Evoque convertible is expected to offer all the off-road prowess Land Rover is known for, while providing a completely open view overhead. With two doors and a quick-down top, the Evoque looks more at home cruising through Beverly Hills than actually climbing them, but it’s nice to know that you could if you wanted to. A 240hp turbo four-cylinder engine paired to a 9-speed automatic remains a top fuel efficiency performer. The Evoque Convertible is expected to go on sale mid-2016, with a base price of just over $50,000. Whether or not the public is ready for such a unique machine remains to be seen.

2016 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell

Hydrogen and Oxygen combine to create a zero-emissions hydrogen-powered electric vehicle. The idea is nothing new, yet Honda’s newest FCV is claiming just 3- to 4-minute fill-ups, with a targeted range of over 300 miles! The use of ultra-lightweight materials keep vehicle weight to a minimum, while aerodynamic albeit not-so-visually-pleasing body panels keep wind resistance to a minimum. The electric motor generates about 174 equivalent horsepower to drive the front wheels, and the Hydrogen fuel cell fits nicely under the hood, leaving plenty of traditional trunk space out back. Performance is far from groundbreaking, but the concept of Hydrogen as a future fuel alternative is what Honda is really trying to convey in the Clarity. Set to go on sale in Japan in spring 2016, it may be a while before Americans can get their hands on one.

Audi E-Tron Quattro Concept

During the press days of the L.A. Auto Show, Audi of America president Scott Keogh announced his company’s commitment to achieve at least 25 percent of U.S. sales from electric vehicles by the year 2025. He went on to say, “Audi will build its position in electric vehicle technology with the launch of the A3 Sportback E-Tron plug-in hybrid later this year. It will then accelerate toward its decade-long goal of 25 percent electric vehicle sales with the production version of the fully electric Audi E-Tron Quattro concept SUV by 2018, along with other plug-in models to come.” A bold statement considering the plethora of new electric vehicles coming to market in the coming years. The E-Tron Quattro features a single electric motor, which drives the front two wheels, while two others independently power the rear, producing a combined 429 equivalent horsepower, and claims a zero-to-60 time of around 4.6 seconds. Charging should take about an hour, and provide around a 310-mile range. A multitude of driving technologies assist the Quattro’s handling and performance, including torque vectoring to distribute power exactly where it’s needed, and it features energy recuperation technologies to harness all the electricity possible. Industry experts see the E-Tron concept aimed squarely at the Tesla Model X Luxury electric SUV, which makes sense, but only time will tell whether or not Audi has what it takes to dethrone the mighty Tesla electric. With a release date pushed out to 2018, they don’t exactly have time on their side.

2016 GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate

It wouldn’t be an auto show without some new trucks, and GMC introduced a beautiful example in the 2016 Sierra Denali Ultimate. If it sounds like an expensive truck, that’s because it is. Starting at about $51,000, the Denali is much more than your basic work truck. Advanced LED lighting, premium design accents and luxury features that include a power sliding rear window, sunroof and power steps. An exceptionally quiet interior surrounds the driver in luxurious perforated leather, real brushed aluminum trim, and features heated and vented front seats, a heated steering wheel and premium stereo options. Sound deadening is achieved via triple door seals, new body mounts, aerodynamic exterior mirrors, a valved exhaust system, and an optional Active Noise Cancellation system. Interior tech includes an 8-inch color touch screen with voice commands, a wireless cell phone charging pad, available 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, OnStar remote link software, and Apple Carplay. A 6.2L V8 generates 420 horsepower, with an optional 5.3L Eco Tec V8 that offers the best V8 fuel economy in any size pickup. Other features include Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist, and an Eaton auto-locking rear differential for ultimate off-road traction. This is NOT your father’s pickup; in fact, if it weren’t for the bed out back, you’d probably think you were driving a lifted Cadillac Sedan, which is actually a pretty accurate description.


SEMA 2015

justin brotton - Tuesday, December 01, 2015

By Paul Santana

For the past 49 years, the Specialty Equipment Market Association has been the place for automotive parts manufacturers to announce new products and connect with industry buyers from all around the world. A long time ago, manufacturers came to the realization that the best way to showcase their products was on the vehicles themselves, making the SEMA show basically one of the largest car shows in the world. From a numbers standpoint, it’s Las Vegas’ largest convention, with over 2.5 million square feet of exhibit and attractions space, taking place over four days every November, with approximately 60,000 buyers present, 2,400 exhibitors, and 3,000 media personnel. Throughout the show, attendees are encouraged to attend dozens of educational seminars focused on improving business strategies, online marketing, customer service, and up and coming market trends. A true marketing event, it’s a great place to meet other peers in the industry and talk about what’s working best in their individual regions. But hey, enough about numbers and classrooms … let’s talk about the vehicles!

Every year, talented car builders from across the country partner with parts manufacturers to design and build amazing vehicles that showcase the best parts the automotive aftermarket has to offer. This year, one of the most talked about partnerships came from the Ring Brothers, based out of Spring Green, Wisconsin, who brought a beautiful 1965 Ford Mustang that featured an all-carbon fiber, custom-crafted wide-body. Espionage is powered by a Whipple Supercharger bolted on top of a 427ci Chevy LS7 engine, which work together to produce an impressive 959 HP, and is paired to a 6-speed Tremec manual transmission. Bringing all that horsepower to a stop are 14-inch BAER disc brakes on all four corners. Covered in BASF Spy Green paint with white and orange accents and approximately seven layers of clear coat, the Mustang was understandably unveiled at BASF’s booth during the show. The super lightweight performance Mustang took more than three years to complete, and was definitely one of the most anticipated cars at SEMA.

“’Espionage’ has been a huge undertaking for our little shop. Over the past few years, it has been an incredible challenge, but one that’s also been incredibly rewarding,” said Jim Ring. “When Mike and I build a car, we always try to come up with something that nobody’s ever seen before, and I think the work we’ve done on ‘Espionage ‘really qualifies that statement.” The body is completely custom and made up of 100 percent lightweight carbon fiber material, and has been widened over stock by four inches. It’s so lightweight that the entire body weighs approximately 180 lbs., a reduction of almost 600 pounds compared to stock sheet metal. This custom wide-body design allows much wider tires to fit entirely within the wheel well, without having to bulge out the fender flares, maintaining a fairly stock appearance while increasing traction. Some of the custom exterior components include the door handles, carbon fiber mirrors, hood scoop, hood pins, and wider grill openings to allow more airflow to the intercoolers. Where the gas filler was normally located in the center of the trunk at the rear of the car, there’s a new third brake light instead.

Inside, you’ll find some things missing – there are no gauges in the dash. Instead, the Ring Brothers installed a Race Pack digital computer to monitor all the vital components. There’s also no radio, which allows the driver to focus on the much more exciting notes being produced by the fully custom headers and Flowmaster exhaust. If you’re interested, you can purchase the entire carbon fiber body kit for your ‘65 mustang for just under $38,000 from their website, www.ringbrothers.com.

Toyota unveiled several interesting vehicles at this year’s show, including the impressive Tonka 4Runner monster, featuring Bulletproof suspension components and a very eye catching graphics scheme that brings about childhood memories of big trucks in the sandbox. The all-new 2016 Toyota Tacoma was also a show favorite, with companies using it as a showcase for a variety of suspension kits, off-road bumpers and toppers. As the most successful selling mid-size pickup for the past ten years, it’s a great platform to illustrate aftermarket parts.

Honda unveiled their newly designed Ridgeline Baja race truck, based on the yet-to-be-released production Ridgeline. Honda Performance Development partnered with the Proctor Racing Group to design and build the off-road contender, which sports General Redline tires wrapped around KMC wheels, Rigid Industries LED light bars, and a new aggressive front end. Set to make its racing debut at the Baja 1000 Race in late November, the Ridgeline Baja racer offered a sneak peek at what we can expect from the new production vehicle that is set to be announced at the North American Auto Show next month.

“Ford Out Front” offered attendees the chance to ride along with professional drivers as they slid a variety of Ford performance vehicles around the parking lot track in front of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Chevrolet was also giving rides, showcasing the new Corvette and Camaro’s acceleration in-between the exhibit halls, each offering show-goers the chance to experience all that the vehicles had to offer in a somewhat controlled environment. This year, Ford also took home three out of the four SEMA Hottest Vehicle awards, with the Ford Mustang being named Hottest Car; the Ford Focus was the Hottest Sport Compact; and the F-Series Pickup winning Hottest Truck. The Jeep Wrangler received the Hottest 4x4-SUV award, and was also highly featured throughout the show.

SEMA Ignited held its second annual show this year, on the final day of the SEMA convention. Offering the public a glimpse of the show, SEMA Ignited was held just across the street from the Convention Center this year. Sometimes the best part of a car show is hearing them start up and cruise, which is basically the origin of the Ignited event. So many people would gather outside the convention center on the last day of the show to watch the vehicles file out of the halls that it became a staple of the convention. It has now developed into a full-on car show, with food, music and the unveiling of the winner of SEMA’s Battle of the Builders. This year’s winner was Bobby Alloway’s 1933 Ford Roadster, featuring a 241ci Hemi motor and a beautifully classic flames-on-black paint design, beating out 200 of the most talented builders and designers for the top prize.

2015 marked my third year attending the SEMA show, and each year I try to focus my attention on something new. This year, I really tried to stop and appreciate the sheer variety of custom, stock and wildly absurd machines. It’s amazing to think about all the vehicle categories represented in one place. Hot rods, exotics, 4x4’s and rat rods all sharing space to showcase the best products and parts the automotive aftermarket has to offer in the coming year. And speaking of rat rods, this year saw several excellent examples of the beautifully ugly, wonderfully tacky, and often intentionally rusty rides. The rat rod celebrates the hot rod culture of the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s, focusing on heavily modified and chopped cars and trucks that sport an unfinished, eclectic look, often using parts from multiple makes and models. They are truly one-of-a-kind works of automotive art. Like the show itself, if you look close enough, you’re bound to find something new, and even if it’s not your particular style, the craftsmanship and thought that goes into them commands your respect.






justin brotton - Tuesday, September 01, 2015

By Paul Santana

ugly car modsYou make a trip to a clothing store, search through the rack of identical shirts in your size, and then buy one, fully content with your new shirt purchase. The next day, you decide to show off that new shirt, so you throw it on and head into work, only to find one of your co-workers wearing the exact same shirt.

Our vehicles are a bit like our clothing. We like them to fit us well, look good, and we want to feel good in them. And for the most part, we don’t really care for the times when we come across another vehicle that looks exactly the same as ours. For one, it can be confusing. Have you ever walked up to a vehicle, pressing unlock on the remote, and getting frustrated that in won’t unlock, only to realize it’s not your car! But the main reason we seek to personalize our vehicles is to make a statement, one that says who we are, what we’re into, or what we want to be.

Maybe in a perfect world we’d all be able to afford any vehicle we desire, and no one would worry about status or perceived style; but the reality is, the vehicles we are lucky enough to drive every day say a lot about who we are. Statistically, if you own a minivan, you probably have a family; and if you drive a sports car, you’re more than likely a bit wealthy and quite possibly in your early 20s or late 50s. Most of the time we buy only what we can afford; but even then, we make decisions to purchase something that best fits our needs. If you’re a single mom looking for a vehicle to take your child to school every day, you’re probably not going to purchase a motorcycle, right? Thankfully, whether it’s a minivan or a Maserati, there are plenty of things we can do to tweak our vehicle’s personality to better fit our own, and hopefully have some fun in the process.

Maybe you start small with a quirky surfboard air freshener; perhaps a new set of wheels and tires; or maybe it’s a full custom paintjob. If you’re like me, you started by upgrading the stereo system (because you love music of course), and then moved on to more cosmetic things like tinting the windows and changing out the headlights. Once you start, it’s hard to stop, and there’s always something else on your wish list. When taking a look at customization in general, I like to think that all of the things we do to customize our rides can be loosely grouped into one of four categories:

  • 1.The practical.
  • 2.The cosmetic.
  • 3.The not-at-all practical.
  • 4.The “need to put an end to this ugliness now.”

First – The Practical

Say you’re a volunteer firefighter, and you get called out to fires in very remote, hard-to-reach locations. It’s completely realistic that your truck could use a nice lift, and some capable off-road tires. Or a rural veterinarian might add a cargo liner and cage divider into their wagon to keep animals isolated to the rear of the vehicle. Both are great examples of modifying their existing vehicle to serve a new function or enhance the usability of their transportation, and both help to personalize the vehicle to better fit the owner. There are tons of practical aftermarket performance bolt-on’s that can improve vehicle power and help transform your average street ride into a weekend racer as well. Adding a turbo to a large diesel pickup to provide more towing power for large fifth-wheel campers is a very popular modification, as are aerodynamic wings installed onto the cab of the truck. Roof racks can be added to most vehicles to greatly increase their carrying capacity, and can even allow large objects like kayaks or ladders to be transported easily and safely.


The second category is cosmetic, and by far the largest grouping of them all. To be fair, some cosmetic customizations can be fairly practical, such as a new aerodynamic wing on the back of a fast car to increase downforce and thereby increase traction. But most of them are just simple indulgences that we drivers turn to in order to make our plain vehicle stand out from the rest. Maybe you had your heart set on a convertible, but instead had to settle for a more practical sedan, so you decide adding a sunroof is a nice compromise between the two.

We’ve all seen a vehicle with aftermarket rims and tires, and while there are several out there sporting low-profile tires for better performance reasons, the majority just think it looks cooler on big rims and low rubber.

In Oklahoma, window tint can actually perform the vital function of helping keep you from baking in the sun every time you hop into it, but it also looks cool, so I guess is a win-win. On a personal note, be careful with very dark window tint as it can definitely reduce visibility and make it more difficult to see out of your vehicle at night – mailboxes aren’t very cheap, and some of us had to learn the hard way that they don’t bend and they like to scratch your paint, and they tend to pop up in places you swear they weren’t located before.

Custom vehicle graphics, aftermarket tail and headlights all fit into this category, and can greatly change the overall look of your ride, for not a whole lot of money, helping you to stand out from all the rest of the cars on the road.

Not At All Practical

Like taking the upsizing of wheels and tires to the extreme; lowering the vehicle so much you must steer clear of speed bumps; and lifting the truck so far into the air you actually slow down on highways to read the bridge measurements to be sure you’ll clear. This is a group of extremes; mainly the same things that fall into the cosmetic group, just taken way too far to remain at all practical for daily use, and sometimes that’s fine. If you have a low-rider and enjoy traveling to car shows, then by all means, live your passion. Sure, it’s not very practical, but it brings you joy, and sometimes that’s all that matters. Is it any crazier to look at a classic hotrod that gets trailered around all year but never actually gets driven? That is what they’re meant to do, right? Some folks can’t stand the look of a lowered truck because they think it defeats the purpose of owning a truck. Having owned both a lowered and a lifted truck, I can tell you that neither was very practical, but they sure did look good!

End This Ugliness Now!

The last category gets a bit personal for me, and I like to call it the “need to put an end to this ugliness now” group of customizations. Style trends that serve no functional purpose whatsoever other than to make other drivers look at your car and bask in the ugliness. I’m referring to, in no particular order: truck nuts; fake bullet hole decals; stick-on fake fender vents; non-functional hood scoops; rear wings higher than the roof; wheels so big, if you rolled over a bump and flexed the suspension, they’d pierce your fenders; exhaust tips large enough to put your head in; eyelash headlight decorations; excessively bright off-road lights on your 2wd mall cruiser; Super Camber (trust me, but look this one up if you have to); and exotic “Lambo”-style doors on your Honda Accord. Right now, you might be thinking of even more examples of automotive excesses. These are just my opinions, of course; and to be completely fair, I’m sure there are some who think some of the things I’ve done to my own truck are ugly. The truth is, all of these things are actually serving their intended purpose, which is to make us take a second look and notice them. After all, when you see a train wreck, sometimes it’s hard to look away.

Customization can be a wonderful thing to help us stand out from the crowd. In a world of cookie cutter, plain-box, super-produced vanilla machines, sometimes a vibrant paint color or custom suspension can really spice up your vehicle and make people take a second look for the right reasons. One of the great things about America is that everyone has the right to make their cars, trucks and SUVs as ugly as they’d like. And the even more amazing thing is that I’m allowed to write about how much I dislike it!

INFOTAINMENT: The Marriage of Information and Entertainment

justin brotton - Saturday, August 01, 2015

By Paul Santana

automotive technologyInfotainment, defined as the marriage of two ideas – information and entertainment – that is working its way into all facets of our daily lives, from what we watch on TV (think scrolling stock ticker or headline bar below your favorite show) to what we listen to on the radio, see on the way to work via mass transit, or even watching the small news screen now built into the pump while filling up your tank of gas. It’s the embedding of media and social information into even the most mundane of tasks.

I recall a recent trip to renew my driver’s license, where I noticed the flat screen television hanging from the corner of the room at the tag agency. I remember when I was younger, the waiting room TV might have featured a cartoon or a popular cable sitcom; but now while I was patiently waiting for my number to be called, I was enjoying a trivia game featuring U.S. presidents and American history. Then it would switch to their information page, showing operating hours, reminding of the upcoming holiday closure, introducing brief bios of the workers who would be eventually assisting me today, then back to the trivia. It was surprisingly engaging, and before I knew it, my number was called and I found myself wanting to wait just a bit longer so I wouldn’t miss seeing the next trivia question, to which I was sure to know the answer. The blending of information and entertainment is something a lot of car manufacturers have been trying to perfect for years.

The evolution of the car radio is something I’ve written about before, but in discussing its future, it’s not really fair to simply call it a radio anymore, is it? Today’s center console media control centers offer much more than a simple FM radio station readout and the time of day. Remember when it was a big deal that the radio was smart enough to know the artist and song that was currently being played via radio waves and could list it on the display so you knew for sure this was indeed the new Garth Brooks song you were listening to? Well, now not only will it tell you it’s Garth Brooks, it can show you his entire bio, list off all available albums for you to instantly play, and even offer other suggestions for new artists that you’ll probably like based on extremely complex metrics that I can’t even pretend to understand.

The latest innovations deal with the complete merging of the smart device that’s with you everywhere you go, and your vehicle. Our phones already have all the information we need. They know whom we like to call most, what songs we played most recently and most frequently, GPS can tell where we like to eat, drink and work. Your phone knows which roads you typically take to the grocery store, and how often you need to shop. Fully integrating this device with your vehicle is the current goal, but up until now it’s been a battle of Apple vs. Android, with each company vying for a piece of the automotive market.

Auto manufacturers have been trying for decades to offer quality sound built into their models, but only a few have been able to offer the same features, ease of use and sound quality as the aftermarket. Now it seems they’re beginning to understand that there are already devices out there that do everything we consumers need, and the answer might not lie in trying to engineer a new device that does all those things, but rather design an interface that works with our devices, not against them. Let’s take on one simple yet vital task first: navigation. We all remember the first GPS devices for your vehicle – companies like Garmin and TomTom offered separate, mountable devices that were already out of date by the time you purchased them, and asked us to go ahead and route their cords, block our driving view, and pull out our hair trying to type in destinations just to find somewhere close to eat. Then the auto manufacturers thought they could come up with their own navigation system and build it right into the vehicle. That makes sense, right? No cords, no charging, no blocking of the windshield. Unfortunately, these systems were glitchy at best, still not up to date with current road changes or conditions, and visually left much to be desired. Then came the smart phones, with Google Maps becoming the standard by which all others would be judged (Apple tried and failed miserably). We had a device that we carried with us at all times, but it still needed to be mounted on the dash, and didn’t interact with the vehicle very well … until now.

Apple was first with what they now call CarPlay. Announced in June 2013 as iOS in the Car, CarPlay’s goal was to simplify iPhone-to-car integration. It would provide direct access to your iPhone’s operating system and allow things like navigation, making phone calls, and listening to music to be displayed and controlled through your vehicle’s built-in systems. It was the first time car manufacturers were relinquishing their hold on the vehicle’s “infotainment” system, and not only allowing phone integration, but actually designing for it.

All of this seemed like a great idea, but like most new technologies, it had a couple of major shortcomings. First, only a select number of car manufacturers were on board – specifically Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo at first, then BMW hopped on, with Fiat, Chrysler and Mazda joining later – so not all manufactures were offering CarPlay as an option. The other major flaw was that they were leaving out Android devices, which dominated over half the cell phone market at the time.

Eventually, in June 2014 Android announced their version, simply called Android Auto, with partnerships in the Open Automotive Alliance to first include Hyundai, with 30 others committing their future support. Android expanded on Apple’s CarPlay idea by integrating GPS, steering wheel controls, the sound system, of course, directional speakers and microphones, wheel speed, compass and mobile antennas, with the car’s operational mechanical data soon to come.

“Android Auto was designed with safety in mind. With a simple and intuitive interface, integrated steering wheel controls, and powerful new voice actions, it’s designed to minimize distraction so you can stay focused on the road” – androidauto.com

But it was still two sides – Apple vs. Android – until a recent announcement from GM stating they would be the first to offer the consumer a choice. Fourteen of Chevy’s 2016 models will offer compatibility with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, meaning we as consumers no longer need to worry about the possibility of switching phones and losing functionality with our vehicles.

“For most of us, our smartphones are essential. Partnering with Apple and Google to offer CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility across the widest range of models in the industry is a great example of how Chevrolet continues to democratize technology that’s important to our customers” – Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors

Chevrolet’s seven-inch MyLink infotainment system display will offer seamless connection to either your IPhone or Android phone, opening the door for the future development of auto-related apps and services. With voice command taking stage front and center, you will no longer feel the need to pick up your device to start a conversation while sitting in traffic – simply speak the command and the system will connect you. Audibly search for restaurants, addresses, contacts, voicemails – you name it. Best-in-class speech technology makes voice commands conversational, and they have been designed to keep your attention where it belongs – on the road. You basically get the connected applications and phone services with your smartphone, combined with the physical and now audible controls that were optimized for driving in your car. With Android Auto, Google Maps has been completely redesigned for use in the vehicle, with easy-to-navigate displays, live traffic information, lane guidance, and intuitive controls that make the process simple.

With recent analytics showing there are more than 2.3 billion smartphones in use globally today, it seems only natural that they would eventually find themselves becoming a more substantial part of our daily tasks. They’re more than just phones, the same way our vehicles are more than just transportation. On average, we spend over 500 hours each year behind the wheel, and it’s not getting any shorter. We might as well do everything we can to enjoy that time, while being safer in the process. Hopefully, innovations like Apple’s CarPlay and Android’s Auto are a technological step in the right direction.    

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