It's been nearly a year since Hyundai and a handful of other automakers announced deals to use CarPlay, which will more or less mirror your smart phone on a car's touch screen. Work continues to get Apple's system – CarPlay – and the similar Android Auto feature into production.
A lot of that work is being done at Hyundai Kia America Technical Center just outside Ypsilanti, Mich., about 40 miles west of Detroit. The 2015 Hyundai Sonata is on track to be one of the first cars with the systems.
"Launching is a challenge," John Robb, Hyundai senior manager of electronic systems development, said. "This is a very tight coupling between automotive and consumer electronics. We're very concerned with stability, reliability and usability." Translation, Hyundai won't green-light the system until its engineers are convinced it works consistently and does not distract drivers.
Contrary to early reports, the system will work with either an iPhone or Android phone; buyers won't have to commit to one type of phone for as long as they own the car. The system is complementary to Hyundai's Bluetooth system, so you can stream music and use voice recognition with just about any phone.
To have your phone's screen and apps recreated – selectively; no Angry Birds or reading Wikipedia behind the wheel – you must connect the phone to the car's USB port.
From that point, everything will feel very familiar to a smart phone user. Familiar icons for music, phone, navigation, messages and more will appear on the vehicle's touch screen. You can use them by touching the screen or with voice recognition.
A brief trial with iPhone and Android phones during a drive was encouraging. Ask Siri to find museums and the virtual assistant generates a list, from the closest to furthest away. Tap an address on the screen, and Apple maps will plot a course and provide turn-by-turn instructions. Sorry Google map fans; if you're using an iPhone and Siri, it's like your Google Maps app never existed, although Apple Maps can access your previous destinations from it.
My test drive provided a reminder of why I use Google rather than Apple maps on my iPhone 6. The directions were consistently quicker testing with Hyundai's Android phone than an iPhone
CarPlay and Android Auto will also read text messages to you and take dictation for replies. If a text message includes an address, tap on the address and the nav system will plot a route.
You can also ask general questions, like sports scores or weather forecasts. Your car will be able to do anything your phone's virtual assistant can do.
Honda, Jaguar, Mercedes and Volvo have all announced plans to offer CarPlay soon.