When Google hosted a boot camp here this month for its Android operating system, there were some new faces in the room: auto manufacturers. They made the trip to learn about Android Auto, a new dashboard system meant to let a smartphone power a car\u2019s centre screen. Tasks as varied as navigation, communication and music apps, all constantly talking to the cloud. And to the driver. A similar scene is playing out just a few miles down the road at Apple, where a rival system, CarPlay, has been developed for iPhone users. After years of being treated as an interesting side business, autos have become the latest obsession for Silicon Valley, with Apple assigning about 200 engineers to work on electric vehicle technology and Google saying it envisions the public using driverless car s within five years. But nowhere is that obsession playing out more immediately than in the battle to develop the next generation of cars\u2019 dashboard systems. In the coming weeks and months, dealerships around the country will begin selling vehicles capable of running Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, or both. The systems go far beyond currently available Bluetooth pairing for playing music or making a hands-free call, and allow for Google\u2019s or Apple\u2019s operating system to essentially take over the center screen and certain buttons within the car. \u201cConsumers have spoken,\u201d said John Maddox, assistant director of the University of Michigan\u2019s Mobility Transformation Center. \u201cThey expect to have coordination between their phone and their vehicle.\u201d Here\u00a0 at Google\u2019s headquarters, Android Auto is about to make its debut in Americans\u2019 cars after two years in development. Plug in a smartphone with a USB cord and the system powers up on a car\u2019s screen. The phone\u2019s screen, meanwhile, goes dark, not to be touched while driving. Apple\u2019s CarPlay works similarly, with bubbly icons for phone calls, music, maps, messaging and other apps appearing on the center screen.(Apple declined to comment for this article.) While the idea of constantly connected drivers zipping along roads raises concerns about distracted driving, both companies say their systems are designed with the opposite goal: to make cellphone-toting drivers safer. \u201cWe looked at what people do with their phones in the car, and it was scary,\u201d said Andrew Brenner, the lead project manager of Google\u2019s Android Auto team. \u201cYou want to say to them, \u2018Yikes, no, don\u2019t do that.\u2019 \u201d Brenner said his team tried to figure out how to minimize distraction during tasks people frequently do while driving, while also deciding what should be prevented in the car altogether. Google even built its own driver-distraction lab, to test different variations. Android Auto, for example, has no \u201cback\u201d button like the smartphone version. No \u201crecents\u201d button either. Google Maps has been adjusted to make fonts bigger and streets less detailed, for easier reading while driving. No action should take more than two seconds \u2014 consistent with the transportation department\u2019s voluntary guidelines. \u201cThings that we don\u2019t show are just as important as what we do show,\u201d Brenner said. Music is most definitely in. Streaming video? Most definitely not. Most social media will also be blocked, and texts can be sent only with voice commands. Apps on the screen are optimised for speed: glance, touch and eyes back to the road. \u201cIt\u2019s these little glances at the screen that people do in a car,\u201d he said. \u201cWe want something that\u2019s very glanceable, that can be seen and done quickly.\u201d On a recent afternoon, Brenner drove through the streets here in a Hyundai Sonata equipped with a demonstration version of Android Auto. Part techie, part car guy, Brenner was hired two years ago after Google discovered he had rigged up a Nexus 7 tablet to his dashboard in an early attempt to make his own connected car. \u201cNavigate to Krispy Kreme,\u201d he said after settling into the driver\u2019s seat. Up popped the nearest location on the screen, and a voice began turn-by-turn directions. A little music never hurt either: \u201cPlay Black Sabbath,\u201d he said. The Krispy Kreme near Google\u2019s campus played a notable role for Brenner and his team of engineers. It was the destination they always tried to reach during testing without Android Auto failing along the way. \u201cThey thought we were a little nuts,\u201d he said. \u201cWe would pull up with four people taking notes and order three dozen doughnuts for the engineering team.\u201d It took until last April to finally succeed in making the trip without a glitch. They added some Champagne to bring back from that doughnut run. When the Android Auto project began, it included a core group of automakers like General Motors, Audi, Honda and Hyundai. Now, as it prepares for its debut, roughly two dozen car brands have signed on to offer it soon. Apple has teamed up with roughly the same number of brands, many of which will offer both systems. Most automakers are staying mum on their exact start dates, but Hyundai is expected to act shortly, and Volkswagen has indicated availability for its next Golf. GM has said the same about its Spark subcompact. One of the most widespread adopters will be Ford, which this year will begin offering both Android Auto and CarPlay in conjunction with the revamping of the automaker\u2019s much-criticized Sync system. By the end of 2016, they will be available on all Fords sold in the United States. \u201cWe don\u2019t want people to have to make a vehicle choice based on which mobile phone they have,\u201d said Don Butler, Ford\u2019s executive director for connected vehicles and services. \u201cWe want to accommodate all customers and their devices.\u201d While automakers traditionally aimed to control all aspects of the infotainment experience \u2014 building their own closed-off, proprietary systems \u2014 the results were not always stellar. And the pace of technology meant a car\u2019s hardware and software could become dated quickly. In some cases, the systems carried what seemed to be needless costs, like an annual fee for updating map software \u2014 something unthinkable for any user of Google Maps or Apple Maps. Mr. Butler said that leveraging smartphones and the ecosystem of apps surrounding them provided a new way forward.