The Ins and Outs of Android Auto

Automotive stereo technology has come a long way in the last couple decades. Many of today’s new cars and trucks are Android Auto compatible. This new feature allows drivers to operate their Android-equipped phone or tablet directly through the factory controls. Android Auto provides a true hands-free environment that promotes safety by allowing drivers to focus on the road, not on their phone.

How Does Android Auto Work?

Android Auto works by connecting an Android-based phone or tablet via USB to your vehicle’s head unit or stereo. Built-in software then allows a Google Now-based user interface to take over the infotainment screen. The phone or tablet remains with the screen off to reduce distractions, and the control functions built into the vehicle are used to operate the interface. Touchscreen functionality is retained and used to select various notification options and settings.

Won’t My Notifications Still Be Distracting?

The Android Auto interface prevents most notifications from being displayed onscreen. Text can be read back through Google Assistant and phone calls are managed by the built-in Bluetooth wireless connection. Calls and messages can be made and answered hands-free.

Users will not get notifications from social media platforms, games, emails, and other notifications while the Android Auto feature is on. Once the phone or tablet is disconnected, the notifications will be available. This feature greatly cuts down on the tendency many drivers have to casually check messages and social media notifications while driving.

The International Institute of Highway Safety finds that drivers texting and responding to messages while driving are between two and six times more likely to be involved in an accident. Drivers between the ages of 18 and 29 are at the highest risk.

What About Google Maps?

Person navigating google maps in car with android device

Android Auto has built-in capabilities to run Google Maps. In addition to standard features of the app, Android Auto integrates a predictive GPS feature that is particularly handy for commuters keeping an eye on traffic.

My Car Already Has GPS

A majority of new cars today include built-in GPS mapping and driving aids. Some of these are pretty good, but most of them lack the functionality, appearance, and ease-of-use that Google Maps is famous for providing. When using Android Auto, Google Maps will be displayed on the vehicles screen, and all touch-enabled features will continue to work. Android Auto allows drivers to use the built-in connectivity to the vehicles functions to operate Google Maps hands-free.

When users exit out of Google Maps, an icon appears on the notifications screen. This allows turn-by-turn directions to continue being displayed while other features are being used.

Maps isn’t the only program available, either. Waze users will find complete functionality using Android Auto. Many third-party apps are useable with Android Auto.

Can Android Auto Play Music?

Google Play Music is featured in Android Auto. The program is fully flushed out and easy to use with the vehicles hands-free features. Drivers can select artists, albums, and playlists verbally or using the touchscreen. As with other features, the simplified interface is made up of bright, bold buttons that are easily understood and used. This reduces moments of distraction.

Android Auto also allows full functioning of many third-party apps including Pandora, Amazon, and Spotify. Many other apps work as well, including news streaming sites like NPR and apps for following sports.

Will My iPhone Work with Android Auto?

Android Auto is specifically for Android-based phones and tablets and will not work with an iPhone. Apple CarPlay is the system intended for use with iPhones and Apple-based tablets. The two systems are very similar in use and function, however Android Auto uses Google apps, while Apples App Store is the go-to for CarPlay. And in most cases, vehicles and head units support BOTH Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The major difference between the two is the addition of Google Now and the Google Assistant. The predictive capabilities and user-based suggestions allow for a more personal assistant-type feel over Apple CarPlay. Access to Google Maps rather than Apple Maps is preferred by many users. You can read more about Apple CarPlay in our article here!

I Really Want This – Do I Have to Buy a New Car?

Fully integrated hands-free technology built in to a vehicle is the ideal way to use Android Auto. Many aftermarket head unit manufacturing companies these days are building touchscreen units that feature Android Auto configuration. The usefulness will depend largely on the vehicle; however it is reasonably easy to conceive of an installation where true, hands-free Android Auto environments could be added to even classic cars.

Android Auto lists the vehicle manufacturing companies that are providing Android Auto either as standard equipment or as available options. More than 500 models from a wide range of international manufacturers are included. The list can be found HERE. Aftermarket stereo companies that incorporate Android Auto are also listed on the website.

We’ve assembled a list of the best Android Auto and Apple CarPlay head units as well. Check them out!

What Else Can Android Auto Do?

Through Google Now, users can control other enabled functions, such as home-based Google Assistant features. This will allow a hands-free wireless environment where drivers can ensure they turn the lights on or off remotely, while driving, without distractions.

Drivers that do not have a touchscreen-enabled car can download Android Auto to a compatible device and use it while driving to reduce distractions. The simplified UI makes for a much safer application to use one’s phone while driving.

It is important to remember that distracted driving kills. The United States Federal Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that at least 3,100 people died in car collisions caused by distracted driving in 2017.

On average, a vehicle traveling at 6 miles per hour will eclipse the length of a football field every five seconds, the average amount of time it takes to check an email or a text message.

Imagine driving with your eyes closed for five seconds, and it is clear why distracted driving is such a dangerous issue.

Android Auto is a wonderful, native, and adaptable option for Android users to get the most out of Google Now and Google Assistant. Android Auto brings tons of functionality to a system that promises to reduce distracted driving and make many features of Google apps useable for drivers.