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Google continues to push boundaries as its Android brand grows, introducing new technologies, products, and devices that often leave some of its competitors trailing in its wake.

The latest idea to come out of their Mountain View headquarters is Android Auto, an Android-powered in-vehicle infotainment display. After grabbing headlines at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES Watch Us Try The Oculus Rift Crescent Bay At CES 2015 Watch Us Try The Oculus Rift Crescent Bay At CES 2015 The Oculus Rift Crescent Bay is a brand new prototype that shows off some exciting improvements in virtual reality technology. We try it out at CES 2015. Read More ) in Las Vegas, we take a more detailed look at what it is and the advantages it’ll offer users.

What Is It?

It’s long been possible to connect your Android to a car’s audio system How To Connect Your Android Phone To Your Car Audio System How To Connect Your Android Phone To Your Car Audio System Most of us enjoy music while we’re driving, but often radio doesn’t play the right tunes. At one time the obvious choice would have been a CD, but of course these scratch easily. Fortunately mobile... Read More , but the concept for a more full-featured product was first announced at Google’s I/O conference in June 2014. The technology itself is part of the Open Automotive Alliance, an initiative launched by 28 car manufacturers in 2014’s CES that has the sole aim of starting to use the Android OS in cars.

The primary goal of Android Auto is to allow the OS to take control of a car’s dashboard head unit, thus offering the driver Android-backed navigation and apps, as well as certain in-car controls such as starting the engine, locking the doors, and sounding the alarm.

What Can It Do?

The main screen will be familiar to long-time users of Android. It uses a card-based system like Google Now Google Now Knows Where You Parked, Gets Offline Cards, And More Google Now Knows Where You Parked, Gets Offline Cards, And More The Android Google Search app has been updated, and tucked inside it are some pretty awesome tweaks to Google Now that add quite a bit of usefulness to Google's personal assistant. Read More  to deliver pertinent information to you as you’re driving.

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The official website uses the example of reminding you to buy sunscreen as you’re driving to the beach, but it’s easy to see how this could be extended to everyday situations such as reminding you to buy milk before you get home, or prompting you to take your presentation with you as you’re heading to the office.

android-auto-main-screen

Away from the main screen, the technology can be broken down into four key components: maps, music, apps, and voice control.

The most obviously useful and appealing feature is the integration of Google Maps. The flagship app will power a GPS and navigation system that will incorporate voice-guided directions, on-the-go live traffic updates, and guidance on which lanes to use, amongst several more yet-to-be-announced features.

Google Play Music will also be directly integrated, meaning you’ll be able to listen to any of the songs you have uploaded to the free service directly through your in-car stereo without having to use up valuable disk space on your actual device. Currently you’ll need an All Access Google Music subscription Google Unveils Google Play Music All Access For Unlimited Music Streaming [Updates] Google Unveils Google Play Music All Access For Unlimited Music Streaming [Updates] As part of the first day of its Goole I/O tech developer conference this week, Google launched a subscription-based streaming music service called Google Play Music All Access. During the annual event, held in San... Read More to upload more than 20,000 songs or download tracks for offline playback.

android-auto-google-music

Additionally, Android Auto aims to make it simple for you to use your favourite apps and content whilst you’re on the road. Support for popular releases such as Spotify, Soundcloud, Whatsapp, Kik, Pandora, TuneIn Radio, and Songza have already been confirmed, with several more confirmations to follow in the coming weeks and months.

The whole system has been designed in a safety-conscious way, with a method of usage that’s intended to minimise distractions whilst you’re driving. It means steering wheel controls are supported and you’ll be locked out of using the phone itself when Android Auto is in use — but the standout safety feature is voice control. It’ll allow users to launch apps, answer calls, and play entertainment without lifting their eyes from the road.

What Else?

Although the aforementioned four ingredients make it more than apparent that Android Auto is already well on its way to solving in-car navigation and entertainment in a way that car companies have so far failed to do, there are lots of other noteworthy features. They include the ability to make and receive calls, voice-controlled web searches, a way to control the speakers’ fade and balance, and continuous monitoring of in-car data such as speed, distance travelled, and fuel level.

hyundai-blue-link-wearable-tech

Hyundai is currently offering the most cohesive solution, and perhaps also offering a glimpse into the future of the system. Their Blue Link technology makes use of Android Auto to integrate with other tools such as car alarms and car starters, and they supported this by developing an accompanying Android Wear app that allows users to remotely start or stop the engine, lock or unlock the doors, flash the lights, beep the horn, or geo-locate the car.

Who Can Use It?

If your car supports it, and you have a phone or tablet running Android Lollipop (Android 5.x), you’ll be able to connect your device via the car’s USB port.

Currently, twenty eight car companies have confirmed their involvement. They are: Abarth, Acura, Alfa Romeo, Audi, Bentley, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Jeep, Kia, Maserati, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Opel, RAM, Renault, SEAT, Skoda, Subaru, Suzuki, Volkswagen, and Volvo. The first cars that support Android Auto were released in late 2014.

Competitors And Alternatives?

Google most obvious competitor to Android Auto is the offering from their long-term rival, Apple. The Cupertino-based firm have a similar product called CarPlay, which was introduced in iOS 7.1 Apple Releases iOS 7.1 With CarPlay, UI Improvements, Bug Fixes Apple Releases iOS 7.1 With CarPlay, UI Improvements, Bug Fixes iOS 7 has had an update that fixes issues and introduces a few new features. The new iOS 7.1 update is available for iPhone 4 onwards, iPod Touch 5th generation onwards, iPad 2 onwards and... Read More . Like Auto, it also uses a car’s dashboard display to control the car’s entertainment, make calls, and get directions, though one drawback of the Apple product is that it uses the company’s inferior (but improving) maps software, rather than Google’s ubiquitous app.

A Ferrari FF was the first car to be delivered with a fully functioning version of CarPlay in September 2014, and since then several of the same manufacturers who support Android Auto have also signed up.

Of course, if you have an old car or an older non-Lollipop Android, there are also lots of dashboard ‘car mode’ apps 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 to choose from which will turn your device into an in-car display unit.

muo-android-carmode-dashdroid

Problems?

Like all new technologies, initial tests having uncovered issues and occasionally jarring user experiences.

The nature of the technology means users will be facing with two interfaces on their dashboard, that of Android Auto and that of the car manufacturer. It’s clear that some functions will be supported by Android and others won’t.

For example, while Spotify is supported, if you want to listen to the car’s FM radio you’ll need to exit Auto and navigate via the car’s interface. To a user, this distinction is arbitrary and could quickly become frustrating.

One solution might be for car manufacturers to publish their own Android apps that can control a vehicle’s built-in functions, but there is little suggestion from Google nor the 28 manufacturers that the idea is being developed. Some manufacturers (such as Volvo) have solved the problem by using a large screen that displays both Android and the car’s UI simultaneously, but this solution seems more cumbersome than simply developing an app.

Useful Or Gimmicky?

Could you see yourself using Android Auto? Is it a viable alternative to traditional GPS systems and plug-and-play MP3 players?

What about the future of the Internet of Things What Is The Internet Of Things & How Will It Affect Our Future [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is The Internet Of Things & How Will It Affect Our Future [MakeUseOf Explains] It seems like there are new buzzwords popping up and dying off with each day that passes us by, and "the Internet of Things" just happens to be one of the more recent ideas that... Read More  and connected-cars? How far can the technology develop? Do you see Auto as a precursor and possible market entry route for Google’s self-driving cars?

We’d love to hear your thoughts. You can let us know your opinions in the comments below.

  1. Bill Smith
    May 4, 2015 at 11:28 am

    8 years too late. New phone for new cars for a decade and only Crapple products compatible for this long? THIS is the type of thing Govt should be mandating is are compatibility standards not what we can and can't ingest. And before you say it "can't" be done the "it does not work in a moving vehicle" ATSC standard for digital television was forced on set top converterbox makers. Anyone making a set box had to use this format.
    Looking to see what vehicles might finally be compatible with android brought me here. Now I see it still is not rectified AND the only solution is to buy a what '17 or newer car?

    • Friend
      February 10, 2016 at 8:19 pm

      '16 or newer for it to come standard in your vehicle. Otherwise, there are plenty of aftermarket radios you can put in your vehicle that will be compatible with Android Auto.

  2. Toni
    April 21, 2015 at 2:05 am

    I have a 2015 silverado with the 8 inch touch screen display, but I can't figure out how to get android auto..

    • Friend
      February 10, 2016 at 8:20 pm

      Android Auto will not work with most Chevrolet vehicles out right now. You will have to go into your nearest dealer and receive a free software update on your vehicle. After that, Android Auto will easily integrate into your Silverado!

  3. Dan Price
    April 3, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    I disagree:

    Vince - on Android's own website it says it does:

    https://developer.android.com/auto/index.html

    Also:

    http://www.cnet.com/uk/news/car-techs-guide-to-using-your-android-phone-in-the-car/

    "We've gotten our hands on Android Auto a few times at this point and are very excited about how well integrated it appears to be and the depth of voice command that it brings to the car. A freshly released SDK also allows some of our favorite audio apps (such as Spotify and PocketCasts) to integrate into Android Auto's slick interface."

    Cheers.

    • Vince
      May 13, 2015 at 3:27 pm

      No where on either of those links is Pandora radio mentioned. Nice try, I do own the HU from pioneer, and I do talk to Pandora since I am a recording artist and they feature my music there. From them I have been told that they may add Android Auto support but they are not in any hurry because they already have support in so many car radio head units already as a featured app of the unit itself. They have no ETA at all at this time and currently have not started any development to support Android Auto. So once again I have to say, No Pandora, No android auto for me at this time, but if and when Pandora is an option in Android Auto, I'm set and ready to go. Google told me when I called them that they believe Pandora will get on board but their ETA was some time in a year or two. Call them yourself, they have a dedicated number for Nexus 6 users and Android Auto, you can talk to a real person who is a developer and provider of approval for AA apps.

      • Friend
        February 10, 2016 at 8:22 pm

        Good news! Pandora radio is now compatible with Android Auto!

  4. Vince
    April 3, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Android auto will not allow any other music programs to work, only Google play music is supported. Please check your facts. you cannot use Pandora or Spotify or any other media service with Android auto.

    • Dan Price
      April 3, 2015 at 3:22 pm

      Vince, I've checked my facts and I disagree - on Android's own website it says it works:

      https://developer.android.com/auto/index.html

      Also:

      http://www.cnet.com/uk/news/car-techs-guide-to-using-your-android-phone-in-the-car/

      "We've gotten our hands on Android Auto a few times at this point and are very excited about how well integrated it appears to be and the depth of voice command that it brings to the car. A freshly released SDK also allows some of our favorite audio apps (such as Spotify and PocketCasts) to integrate into Android Auto's slick interface."

      Cheers.

    • Vince
      May 12, 2015 at 1:20 pm

      I was speaking specifically of Pandora, there is no conformation from them and when I asked them they said they might be releasing a version for Android Auto but had no ETA or any solid conformation. Sad but true, and for me no Pandora, No android auto but I do enjoy the head unit.

    • Roger Hamilton
      June 14, 2015 at 12:48 am

      Just used the Spotify app through Android Auto today on my 2014 Dodge Durango. Worked like a charm. I can't speak to Pandora, haven't tried it yet, but as far as being limited to just Google Play, that is not the case. I will post back after trying Pandora and let you know.

      • Rick Guyer
        August 6, 2015 at 9:51 pm

        Roger, I'm curious, how do you get Android Auto in your 2014 Durango?

  5. NamesArentImportant
    March 19, 2015 at 4:29 am

    Excuse me, Holden will also be bringing it out too.

    • Dan Price
      April 3, 2015 at 3:22 pm

      Thanks for the update!

  6. Taybor Judd
    March 15, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    If only auto manufacturers would allow their check engine codes to also be displayable via android auto. So you can see what is actually wrong (gas cap not on tight enough) so you don't take it to a mechanic and pay $100+ for them to plug in to their machine to see the code and then fix the issue when you could have fixed it yourself.

    • Dylan
      March 18, 2015 at 9:20 pm

      O'Riley and Autozone will read the code for free. You can also get iDatalink Maestro and it will display all your cars issues.

    • Dylan
      March 18, 2015 at 9:24 pm

      That is all dependent on the compatibility of your car of course, but if your car supports it, then you will have the ability to get all of your car information through the radio.

  7. ripem
    February 6, 2015 at 7:22 am

    What after market receivers are supporting this new technology?

    • Daniel Price
      February 10, 2015 at 6:10 pm

      Good question, I'm not sure off the top of my head. I think we will see numbers increasing throughout 2015.

      Dan

    • Dylan
      March 18, 2015 at 9:18 pm

      Pioneer is the only aftermarket manufacture that will have it.

  8. jao
    January 28, 2015 at 3:17 am

    "What is Android Auto and How can you Get it?" I saw the what is it part, but suspiciously absent is the where can I get it part. "Useful or Gimmicky" title?

    • Daniel Price
      February 10, 2015 at 6:11 pm

      Hi Jao,

      Sorry. I thought it was fairly explicit in the list of car manufacturers.

      Dan

    • where/when can I get aa?
      February 11, 2015 at 8:54 pm

      Yeah, nice bait title. Naming the car manufacturers that are involved does not explain how you get it. So I can buy any car of that list and it will have AA? I have a 2015 sonata btw.

    • Dylan
      March 18, 2015 at 9:35 pm

      No, Android Auto hasn't been released by Google yet. There are cars and radios that Pioneer has made that are compatible with Android Auto, but Google has to release an update to their phones or an app that will allow them to work with Android Auto.

  9. Arron Walker
    January 23, 2015 at 10:46 am

    Definitely seems useful - I don't drive, but I seriously hope this is a standard thing by the time I learn

    • Daniel Price
      January 23, 2015 at 5:26 pm

      Thanks. Yes, definitely useful... I think one drawback could be phone signal though, if you're lost in the middle of nowhere (when you would most need GPS), it might not work so well!

    • Dylan
      March 18, 2015 at 9:17 pm

      The way the built in GPS works in your phone is if you have a route set before you leave (while you have service) then you will continue to get directions whether you have service or not. If you are worried about this still, then buy one of the pioneer radio's with built in Nav.

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