There's no time like the present to get schooled on the latest technology that might appear in your next vehicle. So why not absorb the nuts and bolts of Apple CarPlay and Google's Android Auto?

Apple of Our Eye

Like everything that Apple produces, CarPlay is seamless and user-friendly. Using CarPlay is pretty much like using any iPhone tool or function, but it's housed in your car's built-in display instead of in your hand. You can pull up directions, make calls, send and receive texts, and listen to your favorite tunes.

CarPlay utilizes Siri, Apple's omnipresent digital assistant/pal. It works with your car's controls: buttons, knobs, dials and the touchscreen. The system's must-have apps have been formatted specifically for in-car functionality so drivers can keep their eyes on the road.

Those familiar with Apple and iOS products will have a leg up in understanding how CarPlay works. To activate Siri, simply press a button on the steering wheel. If you have a touchscreen, tap on the app that you want or use your car's dials or buttons to activate the system.

Drivers will love how easy it is to fire up Apple Maps on your dashboard. It features the standard turn-by-turn directions and estimated travel times, and it can also predict where you most likely would want to visit by using addresses from your contacts, text messages and calendars.

Audiophiles will gravitate toward such supported music apps as Stitcher, Spotify, Beats Music and iHeartRadio.

Apple CarPlay is available in select 2014 models of Ferrari, Volvo, Honda, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz vehicles. In the coming years, it'll also be available on scores of other makes, including Toyota, Ford and Nissan.

The tech giant is also making CarPlay available as an aftermarket offering from Alpine Electronics and Pioneer sometime in the near future.

All About Android Auto

In late June, Google introduced Android Auto, and folks are buzzing about how it could give Apple a run for its money.

Designed to work smoothly with your Android phone, drivers simply plug it into the dashboard and voilą! Your apps, contacts and messages are front and center, ready for the trip.

Unlike the jewel-toned apps of CarPlay, Google's Android Auto has digital cards that pop up on your screen. Google Maps is available with free, voice-activated navigation, live traffic information and lane guidance. Give your favorite playlist a go with Google Play Music, Pandora Internet Radio and Songza.

Like CarPlay, Android Auto takes safety very seriously. It has a simple and intuitive interface, integrated steering-wheel controls and dynamic voice-recognition capabilities -- all key functions for minimizing distractions.

Unlike CarPlay, it's not available yet. Google says that 25 car brands have committed to the tech in the near future, and the first cars with Android interfaces built in will be available by the end of the year. It will be offered in vehicles from automakers including Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Audi, Subaru and Volvo.

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Lindsay Martell has covered entertainment news for E! Entertainment and tech trends for TechTV, CNBC, Newsfactor, and Sci-Tech Today, among others. She lives in Oakland, California.

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