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Hyundai Is Showing Drivers How to Add Android Auto and CarPlay to Their Cars

HYUNDAI ADDS APPLE CARPLAY SUPPORT TO 2016 SONATAHYUNDAI ADDS APPLE CARPLAY SUPPORT TO 2016 SONATA
Hyundai is adding Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support to certain models.Courtesy of Hyundai

Consumers who want cars with the latest software typically have to buy a brand new vehicle. Wireless software upgrades, which occur with regularity on smartphones and a computer’s operating system, are far from routine in the automotive world.

But that’s changing.

Hyundai is joining a short list of automakers that are helping car owners add new features to their existing vehicles through software updates. The car company announced Thursday that owners of some 2015, 2016, and 2017 models can add software for free—and without visiting a dealer—that will bring Android Auto or Apple CarPlay into the car. Customers can access the software upgrade via the MyHyundai portal. Hyundai’s offering is interesting because it’s encouraging customers to do it themselves.

The company’s MyHyundai.com portal has installation guides to walk customers through the process. In the near future, consumers will have access to do-it-yourself installation videos, Hyundai says. One instructional video is already up and running.

The software will also be available at Hyundai dealerships nationwide for an installation fee, starting in June.

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Google’s Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (AAPL) are two rival software platforms that integrate the smartphone with the car’s infotainment system. The in-car software platform brings the functionality and feel of a smartphone—and all those apps—to the vehicle’s central screen.

Hyundai’s software upgrade will let owners bring that smartphone integration to their cars by loading the new software in their vehicle’s infotainment system.

The 2015 and 2016 model years of Sonata and Genesis, the 2016 Elantra and Tucson, and 2017 Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport are eligible, Hyundai says. The company says it will make an announcement soon about CarPlay and Android Auto upgrades for the 2016 model-year vehicles Sonata Hybrid, Sonata Plug-In Hybrid, Veloster, and Azera that are equipped with navigation.

This is not the first time Hyundai has made a software upgrade available using the MyHyundai portal, according to the automaker. Last year, Android Auto was offered to owners of 2015 model-year Sonata equipped with the navigation package. The company says it will continue to use the software upgrades as a way to add value to its vehicles.

Are Internet connected cars worth the risk?

Tesla Motors (TSLA) has led the effort to use wireless software updates to add new features like traffic-based navigation, a calendar that syncs with a driver’s smartphone, remote start, power management, or upgrades to the car’s performance.

The ability to wirelessly upgrade a vehicle’s software isn’t unique; any car with built-in Wi-Fi technically has the ability. However, Tesla’s practice of wirelessly upgrading a car’s software to not only fix bugs, but also roll out new features that improve performance and customize the driving experience, illustrates a shift within the auto industry.

To be clear, the Hyundai software upgrades aren’t wireless. It actually requires the driver to remove the SD card from the car’s center console, insert the card into a computer, download the software update from the Hyundai portal, and then reinsert the card into the car.

Owners of even older Hyundai models—or any car for that matter—will soon get access to Android Auto thanks to new updates Google (GOOG) announced this month at its annual developer’s meeting. The Internet giant said it will make connected car platform accessible to users who were previously shut out of the app. Users will have access to all the same features as in-car Android Auto, including voice-enabled calling, media, messaging, and navigation with a new driver-friendly interface. The on-phone experience will be available later this year through an update to the Android Auto app.

The experience still won’t be the same for consumers with fancy infotainment screens. But it shows Google’s increasing interest in the car. For instance, Google also said it will now allow major automakers to use the Android Auto platform to build their own apps for car-related services. Hyundai is the first to launch an Android App, which adds vehicle-specific functionality like access to roadside assistance and car diagnostics.