"Smart Phone, Dumb Radio" - Upgrade Your Phone, Upgrade Your Car's Entertainment System. Instantly.

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The MyLink home screen pulls in apps and content from your smartphone. Photos: General Motors

Here’s the problem with in-car technology: Since it takes automakers about 5 years to get a new model on the road, and the latest technology can be outdated in just a few months, we are stuck driving with “old” tech even in the newest cars.

So automakers have had to be really good at predicting what will be available, and more importantly, what tech we’ll want, when designing new cars. And we know how that’s gone in some models…

That’s why Chevrolet has developed their “Smart Phone, Dumb Radio” initiative. Starting with the 2013 models of the Spark and Sonic out in June, a new MyLink “infotainment” system will be included that consists of a “dumb” radio that’s controlled entirely by your smartphone.

Trouble predicting the tech we want

According to Sarah LeBlanc, Global Infotainment Manager for GM, “None of the car manufacturers could have predicted five years ago how much people would be dependent on their smartphones. We use them for everything in life, from our calendar to our camera to communication and entertainment. And our customers want them in their cars as well.”

The MyLink screen gives a high-end look and function to an entry-level radio

Chevy found that 90% of potential Spark and Sonic customers had smartphones and were comfortable using them for everything. And since they wanted an entry level vehicle, but didn’t want it to have a basic, low-end entertainment system, they asked if Chevy could take all the great features of their smartphone and extend it to the radio. So they developed MyLink.

It works by taking the best of your smartphone and “passing it through” to the radio and its 7-inch touchscreen — allowing you to personalize and customize how you bring information and entertainment into your vehicle. You can access your phone contacts, your personal playlists on Pandora and Stitcher, photo galleries and other stored media. You can even use your phone’s voice recognition and personal assistant, like Siri, through MyLink. Giving you a system that looks and behaves high-end, at the affordability of entry level, without looking cheap.

Upgrade your phone, upgrade your system

But the biggest benefit, according to LeBlanc, is if you upgrade your phone and apps, which most of us do way more often than we upgrade our cars, your infotainment system gets upgraded as well. Automatically. If your phone gets better voice rec, your car will too.

Your apps and info are passed through from your phone, with some adjustments

It’s important to note that not all of your apps will work with MyLink. And the ones that do, pass through to a special adapted version that runs on MyLink. The reason is to lessen driver distraction, and comply with federal regulations for in-car systems. For example, on Pandora, the artist info and cover art are not shown, you can only see the artist’s name and the song title. Chevy is constantly working with app makers to have more and more apps available for MyLink.

I’ve done a demo of the system with LeBlanc and it’s as intuitive to use as your phone. Just touch or talk your way through the menus to get the entertainment you want. It brings the familiarity of our phone and extends it to our car.

“Customers all over the world told us they’ve set up their smartphones exactly how they want them, and the ideal car radio should extend the capabilities of their smartphone rather than try to duplicate them,” she said. “We listened to our customers and gave them a system that is safe, simple and connected.”

And one step closer to driving K.I.T.T. like we’ve dreamed since we were kids…

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