The Sony units have a Passenger App Control Mode that lets a passenger connect an iPhone or iPod touch and play videos or see apps on the touchscreen.
How does it work under the hood?
You don't have to be a mechanic, or know about the UPnP authentication, USB and Bluetooth connection, RTP audio streaming and VNC screen remoting (but if you've ever used RealVNC, it's the same technology).
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That's why it's called MirrorLink; the car screen mirrors what's on the screen of the phone it's linked to. (It's also a snappier name than the original 'Terminal Mode', which sounds a bit, well, dangerous, for cars).
Using standard technologies and plugging into the standard OBD-II bus on the car, developing MirrorLink should be fairly fast.
Which cars have MirrorLink in?
So far it's just the Toyota iQ, which has a Panasonic MirrorLink system built into the dashboard as part of Toyota Touch Life.
But Honda, Kia, Peugeot, Ford, Fiat, General Motors, Mercedes Benz, Mazda [sponsored link], Renault and Volkswagen are all members of the CCC, and MirrorLink will be one of the options for the 2013 VW Golf in Europe.
QNX recently signed up; a lot of car manufacturers use QNX for in-car systems so that should speed up adoption significantly.
You can also add MirrorLink to existing cars.
Sony, JVC Kenwood and Alpine are the first accessory makers to have MirrorLink head units you can buy and fit to any car that has enough space on the dashboard.
We tried the Alpine model out last year.
When will more cars have MirrorLink?
MirrorLink will become more common in 2013/2014.
Which phone manufacturers are working on MirrorLink?
HTC, LG, Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Motorola have all signed up to the CCC.
Nokia is pushing MirrorLink the most so far, putting it in several Symbian Belle and S40 handsets (the 701, 700, 600, 603, N8, E7, C7, X7, and C6-01, as well as the Meego-powered N9).
The MirrorLink app is on the Ovi store.
Samsung has MirrorLink support in some models of the Galaxy SIII and Sony Ericsson showed a prototype interface at CES 2012 with apps for music, navigation, calls, weather, traffic and parking information.
Will MirrorLink come to Windows Phone?
"We're working with the Windows Phone team to get it in," Nokia vice president Christof Hellmis told TechRadar. Don't get too impatient; "both sides are willing and committed to providing MirrorLink to the Windows Phone ecosystem, but it's too early to talk about timing or the exact version of Windows Phone."
What about other phones?
RealVNC has its own VNC Automotive Solution; this supports MirrorLink but also lets you connect iPhone, Blackberry, Symbian S60, Windows Mobile and Android devices; Land Rover, Sony, QNX and other companies have signed up, but that's not as many backers as MirrorLink.
Toyota has an Application Launcher iPhone app for the iQ that lets you use Garmin StreetPilot and some music apps, but it's not using MirrorLink.
Isn't this just like My Ford Sync or the other car connection systems?
Unlike others, MirrorLink works in any car. For example, the Alpine ICS-X8 fits into cars that have the larger 4" by 7" double DIN socket in the console. But MirrorLink is an open standard so you wouldn't have to keep buying the same make of car to use your apps.
And why can't MirrorLink let me drive the car from my phone?
The same reason you don't have to worry about a virus on your phone literally crashing your car.
"There are two worlds inside the car," Hellmis explains. "The internal world where you have the vehicle controls and the electronics supporting that; that's behind five thousand firewalls, it's like getting into Fort Knox. Then there's the multimedia infotainment system and the OBD-II bus you can plug in sensors to diagnose what's wrong with your car. MirrorLink is part of that world; it's not in the inner circle."