After 8 Years, Android Auto Is Getting a Big Revamp

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(Image: Google)
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay have changed the way people experience their car’s infotainment system. Since their introduction in the mid-2010s, both have allowed drivers to cast their smartphone’s navigation apps, weather widgets, music interfaces, and even (controversially) text his messages onto the car’s touchscreen. But unlike Apple CarPlay, which tends to be updated with every major iOS update, Android Auto has remained relatively old over the years.

Last week at CES 2023, Google finally announced a rolling revamp of Android Auto. The Phase 1 update, now available to all Android Auto users, introduces an updated interface and some new features.

Users will immediately notice that Google Maps has been moved to the driver’s side of the vehicle. This makes it easier to manage navigation without taking your eyes off the road. A more diverse split-screen arrangement (which was seemingly in beta forever) makes Android Auto suitable for vehicles of different screen sizes. Cars with Google built-in, such as the Volvo EX90 and Polestar 3, will have Google’s new HD maps. This is a more detailed version of the default map and includes road barriers, lane markers, signs, and other information useful for assistive and autonomous driving technology. The Google built-in also allows the driver to use his Waze instead of his Google Maps.

Google also added a number of new interactive options to Android Auto. With quick access to music and podcasts, users can quickly select entertainment options. Also, a seekable progress bar lets you find a specific point in a track or episode. Google Assistant, on the other hand, uses situational awareness features to remind users of missed calls or prompt them to share her ETA while on the move. As for those missed calls, Google says Pixel and Samsung smartphone users will soon be able to enjoy WhatsApp compatibility, though this particular update will come later in the rollout.

The Android Auto update also introduces additional digital car key options. Pixel and iPhone users have been able to share their digital car keys for some time now, but this feature will soon be extended to Samsung and Xiaomi users. Digital key sharing for cars is only available to BMW drivers, but Google says more automakers will soon adopt the technology.

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