Neal Boudette:

Christine Bickley of Riverdale, New Jersey drives a 2014 Kia. She listens to music through an app and bluetooth connection within the car. Matt Rainey for The Wall Street Journal

The long-promised demolition of the barriers that separate drivers from the information and entertainment available through smartphone apps is finally shifting into high gear.

Driven by consumer gripes—and by visions of new streams of revenue—auto makers and major players in the smartphone and apps industry dug into their software and hardware to remove a variety of obstacles to smooth integration of vehicle displays and the output from apps.

Now, a wave of new models hitting showrooms have dashboard electronics designed to make it dramatically easier to access smartphone apps that could provide real-time traffic maps, parking access and weather reports on the road.