There’s good news for Android Auto users, as updates to the in-car phone mirroring system announced at Google IO 2022 revealed a new user interface and better features.
And it was time.
Google made a number of Android Automotive OS and Android Auto update announcements on Thursday, and the one that really caught my eye was the new UI for the latest system, which allows the interface to seamlessly adapt to any screen size in your car – as shown by the GIF above.
That means those using Android Auto – where you connect your smartphone to your vehicle’s display wirelessly or via USB cable – will see the system make full use of the available space. Something he is not currently doing.
years of frustration
Listen, I love Android Auto. It has helped me navigate the roads not just in my native England, but across Europe and North America for years.
Google’s clear navigation and real-time traffic make driving abroad a breeze, while integrations with Spotify and WhatsApp keep me entertained and in touch.
It’s not a perfect system, and I get constantly frustrated every time I hook up Android Auto in a new car and it only uses part of the available screen, often leaving part of the display redundant.
With advances in in-vehicle technology, accelerated by the rise of electric vehicles (EVs) boasting ever-increasing screen sizes, there’s an awful lot of real estate to play with, and Auto is finally on the not to take advantage of it.
Even in my personal car, a Kia Niro, I can’t wait for Android Auto to fill the entire center display, as it currently fills about two-thirds of it, leaving the last third unused.
Auto’s ability to intelligently adapt to the size and orientation of the screen it’s displayed on will allow it to display more application functions at once, reducing the distraction of having to switch between them, while providing larger and clearer visuals.
The new user interface will prioritize “core user needs”, meaning that in addition to mapping, you’ll also see your other commonly used apps such as podcasts, music, and audiobooks.
Once the update is rolled out, Android Auto will also share relevant pop-up alerts and suggestions, such as the ability to share your arrival time with others and respond to messages or missed calls with a single tap.
This Android Auto update won’t fix everyone’s bugs, but it’s a huge positive step in the right direction for me.
Google says the update will be rolling out worldwide “just in time for summer,” meaning it should be imminent (May/June 2022).
We reached out to the search giant to seek further clarification on this, but a spokesperson was unable to give us a specific date for the update.
Automotive OS gets a video boost
It’s not just Android Auto that’s getting new skills, as Google has also announced new video apps for its Android Automotive operating system.
The car operating system is built right into vehicles and doesn’t require your smartphone, giving you direct access to key Google apps and many more through the Play Store, all on the car’s screen.
The fleet of vehicles currently running Android Automotive OS is still relatively small, but GM, Ford, Nissan, Volvo, Polestar, Honda and Renault currently offer it in select models.
And soon (no exact date yet) you’ll be able to watch videos on a trio of new apps that are being added to the platform; Tubi, YouTube and Epix. They will only be available when you are parked, either while charging your electric vehicle or waiting for a curbside pickup.
A little further down the line (again, no firm date yet) you can also browse the web from the comfort of your car – once parked. These are features we’ve seen in Teslas before, but with Google bringing them to its in-car operating system, it means more drivers in the future will have access to them.