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Motorola MA1 gives your car wireless Android Auto

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are game-changing smartphone interfaces, and now wireless versions of both systems are rolling out in new cars. If you’ve got an older car with wired Android Auto only, though, Motorola is unveiling a way to cut the cord at CES 2022.

The Motorola MA1 is an adapter that can add wireless Android Auto to existing cars. Motorola said in a press release that it licenses the technology from Google. Since the company hasn’t made a similar arrangement with Apple, CarPlay users are out of luck for now.

The MA1 plugs into a vehicle’s USB port and connects automatically via Bluetooth. Once connected, it enables all of the features of Android Auto, including projection of Google Maps, Spotify, and other phone-based apps onto the car’s infotainment system, but without fumbling for a cable. Wireless Android Auto operates at speeds up to 5 GHz, according to Motorola.

The MA1 is scheduled to go on sale January 28, 2022, with a starting price of $90 online and in stores. In addition to an Android Auto-equipped car, users need a phone running Android 11 or higher, with an active data plan, Motorola noted.

Since its initial release in 2015, Android Auto (along with Apple CarPlay, which launched in 2014) has become a must-have feature in new cars because of its ease of use. Drivers get the same familiar apps and interface from their phones, but without having to pick those phones up while driving. Instead, they can use a car’s built-in touchscreen and voice controls for a (slightly) less distracting experience.

Motorola estimates that Android Auto is available on over 100 million cars today, although most still use the wired version. Some automakers, such as Ford and Hyundai, have begun offering wireless Android Auto (and wireless Apple CarPlay), but only recently and only on certain models.

Meanwhile, Google is looking for even greater integration between Android and automotive infotainment systems. The tech giant has developed an entire Android Automotive OS for cars, which is currently available in some Volvo models and the Polestar 2, from the Swedish automaker’s EV spinoff brand. This takes things a bit further than basic Android Auto by building apps like Google Maps and Google Assistant right into the car.

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