It appears 2015 is going to be the first year that Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay finally start seeing more widespread attention, and Pioneer is kicking the year off with five new NEX receivers, three of which are compatible with Google’s Android Auto. We had a chance to see one of them in action at CES 2015, and while it was made clear that this was just demonstration software, the receivers are most definitely doing a great job of showing off Google’s car OS in a package that’s relatively affordable.
Demoing a variety of Android Auto features (most of which we were already aware of), Pioneer showed us the voice-controlled nature of the system in a demo car on the CES show floor. To make sure drivers can keep their eyes on the road, basically any functionality within the system can be controlled by the press of a button on the steering wheel (depending on the car) and a voice command. Some of the most basic functions include sending text messages, making calls, getting directions, and playing some tunes through Google Play Music. Android Auto compatible apps from your phone are also just a few taps away from the home screen.
Pioneer spent a moment demoing the context clues that Google Now takes advantage of to make things easier on the driver. After asking about the weather in San Diego, you can ask what the hours of “the zoo” are, and Android Auto will know that you’re most likely referring to the San Diego Zoo specifically. This is of course an important feature to make things as human as possible for a driver who shouldn’t be focusing on saying just the right command to get information, and from what we can tell, it works pretty well.
The company says that the three receivers compatible with Android Auto can also run Apple CarPlay. Sadly, using one system or the other isn’t simply a matter of plugging in a different phone to the receiver. The system was designed to only use one system at a time, so if you want to switch to Apple CarPlay, you need to tap a few buttons and change a system setting. While switching back and fourth between Android Auto and CarPlay is a minor hassle, though, using Pioneer’s stock aftermarket receiver software is only a tap away at all times.
We did get to play with the system a little bit ourselves and the interface seemed to be responsive, with the exception of some hiccups that we would attribute to the hectic WiFi and cellular situation in the CES convention halls. Most of the time, though, the receiver was able to produce responses in a timely manner and didn’t have all too many hiccups. Overall, while we can’t say much about these Pioneer receivers in terms of their stock software and hardware quite yet, it looks like they do a great job of running Android Auto.
The AVH-4100NEX, AVIC-7100NEX, AVIC-8100NEX start at $700, $1200, and $1400, respectively. The two cheaper models have 7-inch resistive touch screens, while Pioneer’s flagship 8100NEX sports a 7-inch capacitive touch screen. Expect them in March of this year.