It would be fair to say Android Auto hasn’t been growing as fast as Google would have liked. It finally allowed cars without an Android Auto compatible system for information to use the app last year, which was a real plus as many cars don’t have or even allow for changing the infotainment system. This release allows the phone to have the app launch whenever it connects to the Bluetooth of the car. However, this was more than six months ago and since then Android Auto hasn’t come as far as people would have liked. Many apps still don’t link to Android Auto, including the very popular Waze which was promised to have been linked by now.
However, there’s an unexpected direction for Android Auto. A new partnership with Audi and Volvo is aiming to push the app into more of a high gear. This is going to be done by having the cars come with Android Auto. This means it’s no longer just on the phone but the dashboard will be fully powered by Android. This was first seen on a prototype with Maserati last year, but it looks like it’ll be hitting the market sooner than thought, though no firm date has yet been given.
The new system is intended to work with the regularly expected apps like Google Maps and Spotify but has further functionality. It will also allow control of air-conditioning and windows. Integration with Google Assistant is also an option. This means that plugging in a phone will no longer be necessary and the entire controls and applications on the operating system can be customers just as most Android users do on their mobile phones.
The system has three main windows for users. There is a central panel to navigate and play music, another panel with a grid of car functions and a third which lists the apps installed. There is also a button on the steering wheel plus a voice command to activate Google Assistant.
While this is the quite logical step for Android Auto, it still feels like a work in progress. After all, there are boundaries to the ability to enhance this. Plus, Waze is still not there and Google Assistant is forecast but not there yet. It’ll be exciting to have a look at what Google has intended with their partnerships but there’s surely more work to be done. It is expected Google will partner with more car manufacturers in future.
While the car partnerships are indeed exciting, Google would also do well to consider non-car users such as cyclists who have their phones on handlebars and boat operators (surely a hit in Amsterdam or Venice) who would like to see the traffic reports on the water. There’s a lot of potential Google can work with here. The need for a smarter car and interface has been one of the more logical steps for smart devices and it really only is a matter of getting the app right before it becomes popular. It might even become essential.