Currently Android Auto is available in 22 car brands in close to 30 countries, and it continues to expand. The technology allows drivers to legally interact with compatible phone apps, including maps, music and SMS, via a simplified interface on the vehicle’s display.
The relatively new technology’s transformation will roll out over the coming months, with Google aiming to reduce the costs related to manufacturers developing their own infotainment systems, and also make the technology more accessible to people in cars without infotainment systems via the new ‘car mode’ feature.
Car mode will allow Android users to use their docked smartphones as an infotainment screen which “will give access to the same features – voice enabled media, messaging and navigation – right on the phone screen using an interface that’s designed for driving.”
Other changes will include OK Google hands-free support, Waze GPS app compatibility (instead of Google Maps), wireless connectivity via a car’s WiFi system, and an application programming interface for manufacturers to create their own compatible apps.
Stage two of Android Auto’s growth is a uniform infotainment system across multiple car brands. Google, which has invested heavily in autonomous driver technology, says putting all vehicles on a similar platform will improve vehicle-to-vehicle communications – a vital development in driverless cars.
To show off its new generation of Android Auto, known as Android N, Google had a Maserati Ghibli concept car on display at the conference. Its 15-inch screen and digital dash display were connected to an Android phone that could control the above mentioned apps, as well as car functionality, such as climate controls.
The updated app will be available late this year for anyone using Android Lollipop (5.0) or later.