Bluetooth is the name of a recent technology that allows two devices to communicate with each other wirelessly. Many new cars are equipped with Bluetooth systems that connect to smartphones and other devices. Users must “pair” their device with the Bluetooth system in their car in order to use it.
The primary benefit of Bluetooth in cars is the ability to make and receive hands-free phone calls. In many localities, holding your phone or dialing while driving is against the law and a source of distracted driving anywhere. Car Bluetooth systems are typically incorporated into the stereo as well as the steering wheel. Some cars may feature a touch-screen display. These controls allow drivers to answer incoming phone calls without taking their hands off the wheel. The call comes through over the car speakers, and a built-in microphone picks up the driver's voice.
Drivers can also use Bluetooth to make outgoing phone calls. Contacts or recent calls can typically be viewed on the information display of the car, and drivers can select the contact they want to call to dial out.
In addition to hands-free calling, Bluetooth users can stream music from their connected device to play inside the car. Many Bluetooth systems show the song information on the information display, and steering wheel or stereo controls usually allow the driver to skip songs. Drivers can play most types of audio from their devices, including step-by-step driving directions. Some systems read incoming text messages out loud, and the driver can dictate responses using voice commands.
There are slight differences between Bluetooth systems among the various automakers. Not all devices are compatible with every system, so it is advised for car shoppers to test their devices with vehicles when they take them on test drives.
Owners of older vehicles not equipped with Bluetooth systems have a variety of options for adding the technology. There are universal kits available with built-in speakers and microphones as well as kits that connect with the existing stereo. A third option is installing a new stereo that has Bluetooth capability.