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By now, you know that you should never be texting and driving, but as a tech enthusiast, putting your phone down for an entire 40 to 60 minute commute home from work can be really difficult. The good news is that Google Now allows you to do just about anything you’d need to do with your phone — all with simple voice commands.

Everyone says they don’t text and drive, but as you’re driving around, just watch how many people you see looking down at their phones at stop lights or on the highway. It’s pretty scary, and it’s entirely unnecessary.

I used to be as guilty of this as anyone else. Before it was against the law, I would literally have my Cingular 8125 smartphone grasped between two hands at the top of the steering wheel — texting and surfing as I flew down the Interstate at 75 miles per hour.

Changing this behavior has been difficult, but the long list of voice commands 6 Google Now Features That Will Change How You Search 6 Google Now Features That Will Change How You Search You may already be using Google Now on your Android device, but are you getting all that you can out of it? Knowing about these small features can make a big difference. Read More offered by Google Now OK, Google: 20+ Useful Things You Can Say to Your Android Phone OK, Google: 20+ Useful Things You Can Say to Your Android Phone Slowly, without us noticing, the future has arrived. Read More makes staying connected without touching your smartphone very easy.

Look Up Information

I’m sure you’ve found yourself driving along, deep in conversation with a friend, and a debate comes up. Wouldn’t it be nice to pick up your phone to Google the answer and settle the debate?

All you have to do is say “OK Google” to your phone. When you hear the beep, just ask your question.

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Google Now will not only provide the resulting answer visually on the phone screen, but it’ll read the answer aloud to you so you don’t have to look at your phone!

Honestly, it’s a fantastic way to settle debates — I’ve done so plenty of times!

Ask it trivia questions like, “Who is the author of Great Expectations?” or, “Was Tom Brady guilty of inflategate?” or any other question you can dream up.

Get Weather, News, and Sports

One of the most common things I’ll do when I’ve pulled in to fuel up the car is to say, “OK Google, what’s the latest news?”

Your Android will display the latest news headlines on the screen. If you’re like me and you have your phone mounted to your dashboard The 5 Best Dashboard Car Mode Apps For Android Compared The 5 Best Dashboard Car Mode Apps For Android Compared Want a safe way to use your Android smartphone while driving? These car mode apps make it easy. Read More , this gives you a view of the latest headlines at a quick glance — perfect for when you’ve pulled in for a quick fuel fill-up and want to see what the headlines are.

Better yet, if you’re a sports fan, you can get the latest scores and stats just by asking about your team. For example: “OK Google, when is the next Red Sox game?”

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Not only do you get the schedule for your team, but you’ll see the latest stats.

My favorite queries in Google Now are the ones that will read to me out loud though — because those are especially useful for driving. One of those is the weather. Every day when I’m on my way to work, I  say, “OK Google, what is the weather forecast for tonight?”

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Google Now will speak the forecast aloud — you don’t even have to glance at your phone at all.

Language Assistance While Traveling

There are plenty of times when you’re traveling, especially if you live near the border with other countries, when you may need to know how to say short phrases like “Thank you” or “Can you tell me how to get to xxxx?” in another language.

Google Now is ready and waiting to help you with its translation services. Just ask Google how to say that word or phrase in whatever language you like.

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Google will even pronounce it out loud for you! That way you’ll sound a little less silly when mispronouncing words from another language.

Notes and Reminders

The hardest part of dropping the habit of texting while driving was dealing with scheduling. I will constantly remember all sorts of things I have to do while I’m driving, and I would like to add it to my to-do list or schedule before I forget.

Thankfully, Google Now has a dizzying array of voice commands you can use to take care of your scheduling and note-taking needs, especially if you have Google Calendar synced with your phone (having Google Now installed handles reminders). A few commands you can say include:

  • “Set an alarm for 3PM”, or a recurring alarm with “Set an alarm for every Monday morning at 6AM.”
  • You can also get specific reminders thanks to Google Now, by saying something like “Remind me to go to bed in 5 minutes” or “Remind me to meet with John at 6PM tomorrow.”
  • Create an event in your Google Calendar by saying, “Create a calendar event for a meeting in Boston, Wednesday at 3:30PM.”

However, the feature that I use most often when I’m driving is the ability to take notes via voice. For example: “Note to self: Pay the mortgage tomorrow”.

If it’s the first time you’ve used the command, you’ll need to tell Google Now which of your installed note-taking or to-do apps you want to use to record your notes.

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I can tell you from personal experience that this feature has helped me avoid forgetting some of my most important last-minute thoughts while I was driving in the car — thoughts and ideas I surely would have forgotten without the note-taking command.

Phone Communication

It isn’t just texting and driving that Google Now helps you avoid, it’s also the convenience of voice-activated calling, letting you keep your hands on the wheel Free Up Your Hands With Speech-To-Text [Android] Free Up Your Hands With Speech-To-Text [Android] If you're an Android user, you've probably already heard that there's in-built voice recognition software and text-to-speech capability. But have you used it? Did you know it works pretty darn well? Android's voice software is... Read More instead of a dial pad.

Just say, “Call Jennifer”, and Google Now will look up the name in your contacts list and dial the number for you. If you’ve got your phone on speakerphone or have a Bluetooth headset, you can have the phone conversation without even laying a hand on the phone itself.

This also includes sending SMS messages Send It Later: 4 Useful SMS Scheduling Apps To Text At Just The Right Time [Android] Send It Later: 4 Useful SMS Scheduling Apps To Text At Just The Right Time [Android] MS messages have become one of the most common forms of communication. They can also be extremely flexible, with scheduling and delivery reports. While delivery reports are usually included in stock SMS apps, scheduling is... Read More  — something my wife and I do a lot. When I’m on my way home from work, I just say, “Text Jennifer that I’m leaving work late”, and after confirming with a “yes” that the chosen contact name is correct, Google Now takes care of it.

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Needless to say, it’s smart to keep your contact list up to date if you plan on using this feature often.

Online Communication

It isn’t just phone communications that you can use voice commands for while you’re driving. The same holds true for many of your favorite apps that you use to keep in touch with people, including:

  • “Send a Hangouts message to Saikat”
  • “Video call Tina using Hangouts”
  • “Post to Facebook that I just won the Employee of the Year Award!”
  • “Send a Whatsapp message to Tony”

Best of all, you can even send a email completely via voice Send Single-Tap Emails & Voice Memos With Capito & Instacorder [iPhone] Send Single-Tap Emails & Voice Memos With Capito & Instacorder [iPhone] Ever since I started using the iPhone, the simple need or task of sending text from the device to my computer always seemed one or two taps more complicated than it needed to be. While... Read More . The command is pretty long if you want to include the subject line and the voice all in one command: “Send an email to Jennifer, subject family meeting, message, we need to have a family meeting tonight, full stop.”

Personally, I don’t usually try to do it all in one command. Instead, I say, “Send an email to Jennifer, subject family meeting”.

Then, Google Now asks me to confirm the email address and what the message needs to be.

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Then I can voice dictate my message. I always thought it would be difficult to narrate an accurate email without a bunch of errors, but lately, Google Now’s voice recognition abilities have greatly impressed me.

Maps, Navigation, and Travel

While you’re driving, finding your way around 3 Features of Google Driving Directions You Probably Never Knew 3 Features of Google Driving Directions You Probably Never Knew Read More is the most common need people have. Thankfully Google Now has you covered there as well.

So long as you’ve got your phone near you, all you’ve got to do is say something like “Directions to the Portland Civic Center”, and the directions (via Google Maps) will appear on the screen.

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Just tap the Start button and you’ll have turn-by-turn voice directions the whole way thanks to Google Maps Google Maps on Android: Everything You Need to Know Google Maps on Android: Everything You Need to Know Does Google Maps on your Android device feel a bit daunting? We've got you covered. Here's everything you need to know about using Google Maps on Android. Read More .

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Aside from getting directions Get There Faster - 10 Google Maps & Navigation Tips Get There Faster - 10 Google Maps & Navigation Tips Google Maps is still the most powerful mapping service ever, despite what Apple might say. Whether you’re using Google Maps in a browser on your desktop or an app on your mobile phone, Google Maps... Read More , you can also ask for other travel-related info:

  • Say “How far is Boston, Massachusetts from Portland, Maine” to find out how long it’ll take to drive to Boston.
  • You can just see a quick map of a location by saying “Map of Portland, Maine”.
  • In a strange place and low on fuel? Find a gas station by saying “Where’s the nearest gas station?” (Can do the same for restaurant, coffee shop or other businesses.)

Music and Entertainment

If you’re a music aficionado, what better purpose could you have for Google Now than to play good music The Best Music Player On Android: Google Play Music Reviewed The Best Music Player On Android: Google Play Music Reviewed One of the best things about Android is the diversity of apps, but sometimes the best apps are those produced by Google. Read More ? Whether it’s music you’ve got stored on your device, or music on YouTube, you can fire up some tunes with your voice while you’re driving.

If you’ve got the music on your device, just tell Google Now to play the song title. You could say “Play All I Wanna Do”, or roll the dice and just play the “I’m feeling lucky” Google Play radio station by saying “Play some music”.

If you’re not sure what app or online service you want to use, just say something like “Play some music by Mumford & Sons”, and Google Now will provide you with a list of online services to choose from.

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You can also use Google Now to control other apps on your phone that can serve you entertainment content.

Even without Shazam, you can just ask Google Now to identify any song for you. Is an awesome song playing on the radio and you want to know what it is? Just say, “OK Google, what’s this song?”

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Obviously music is a big part of driving, so having these Google Now voice control features is pretty nice when you’re in the car.

How Do You Go Hands Free?

Believe it or not, the voice commands above are just the tip of the iceberg. Looking for a local chinese restaurant? Say “OK Google, search for chinese food on Yelp.” Stumbling in the dark looking for your keys? Just say, “OK Google, turn on my flashlight.”

No matter what you used to do when you were sneaking your phone while driving, the time has come to put your phone down and drive safely. Thanks to Google Now, there’s a voice command for just about everything you need to do — texting, emailing, searching for directions, weather, and news. Speak it; don’t text it!

Have you had a hard time ending your texting addiction in the car? How long did it take you to stop texting and driving when it became the law? Share your own with mobile voice controls in the comments section below!

  1. Nitin Navalkar
    October 26, 2016 at 7:52 am

    "Ok Google" does not respond if the phone is locked.
    This becomes a problem while driving. Hence one then has to pick-up the phone while driving and unlock it and then say "OK Google".
    How does one overcome this?

    Regards,
    Nitin

  2. Robt
    May 10, 2016 at 3:00 pm

    Doing everything apparently does not include answering the phone?

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  4. Robert
    November 25, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    Studies have shown that using your smartphone hands-free with voice commands is just as distracting as if you were doing it manually. The driver is distracted, not concentrating on driving, and is just as likely to have an accident as if he were doing it all manually.

  5. Michael
    November 25, 2015 at 6:22 am

    "Before it was against the law, I would literally have my Cingular 8125 smartphone grasped between two hands at the top of the steering wheel — texting and surfing as I flew down the Interstate at 75 miles per hour".

    If this is "literally" true, then I'm sorry to say, Ryan, that you seem to be an incredibly stupid and irresponsible person. Did you really need a law to prevent you from continuing with this extremely dangerous behavior?

    You gave the example of using Google Now to initiate video calls and post self-congratulatory messages on Facebook while driving. Would you really "literally" do that? Is your psychological need to be online at all times so compelling that you would put your own life and the lives of others at significant risk to indulge your addiction (yes, addiction - your own word)?

    I really think you need to take a hard look at yourself, your life and your priorities - and, at the very least, ask yourself whether you should be driving at all...before you end up killing or maiming someone.

  6. fcd76218
    November 24, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    The title is misleading. Google Now will do all of the above but it will not operate the car for you, at least not yet.

    • Sean Murphy
      November 25, 2015 at 5:08 am

      Unless it's self driving, Lol

  7. Vincent
    November 24, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    You can avoid having to tap the start button for navigation, by simply saying "navigate to..."
    It will find the place, calculate the route, and start navigation immediately.

    Also works using your saved place, like "Navigate to Home/Work"

  8. steve
    November 24, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    If you can't leave your phone alone whilst driving - you really need to get a life before you lose yours or cost someone else theirs.

    • fcd76218
      November 25, 2015 at 12:01 am

      The excuse is that the phone owner is only performing tasks that are critical to his/her continued existence.

      • steve
        November 25, 2015 at 10:29 am

        Understand what you are saying, but if people really believe they need to be accessible 24*7 and that the world revolves around their *needs* then I would suggest they do need a reality check, but not at the expense of others.

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