A host of features are being added to Google's Android Auto experience, and the company's Automotive OS will come to more cars including, for the first time, Honda vehicles from 2022 onwards.
Google introduced its Android Auto app in 2015, enabling drivers to run a tethered connection between their smartphone and their vehicle’s stereo system to play music from the device, have Maps’ turn-by-turn directions be read aloud, and take calls through the sound system. In the six years since, both Android Auto and the infotainment systems they operate on have gotten a whole lot smarter. On Thursday, Google announced that it will be rolling out even more features and capabilities to drivers, whether they run Android Auto on their phones or directly through their cars.
While Android Auto has been designed to minimize distractions to the driver when on the road, initially connecting the phone to the infotainment or stereo system has to date been a whole thing. You’d have to make sure the Bluetooth radio was live on your phone, then cajole the vehicle into recognizing and pairing with the device, then remember the myriad various oral commands to incite Android Auto into doing what you actually wanted it to. But no longer! Drivers will soon be able to effectively automate the tethering process just by saying “Hey Google, let’s drive.”
What’s more, Google has redesigned the Auto UI to enable access to a bevy of content sources including Amazon Music, Audible, iHeartRadio, JioSaavn, Pandora, Podcast Addict, SoundCloud, and YouTube Music with one-tap accessibility as well as have the system read incoming text messages aloud and allow the driver to respond by voice. Expect to see these new features arrive over the next few weeks in English-speaking markets as well as Germany, Spain, Mexico, France and Italy.
And for international travelers using dual-SIM phones, Android Auto will allow you to establish separate Work and Personal profiles and have their relevant contact lists and calendar appointments display, depending on when and why they’re behind the wheel.
For vehicles with in-car displays, Android Auto (the mirroring version, not what you’d find on the Polestar 2 or the XC40 Recharge) will soon boast a few new features, such as games. Google is partnering with GameSnacks to offer drivers quick and fun diversions to play while the vehicle is parked. Finally, an end to doom-scrolling while sitting in public charging lots. Conversely, Google is making paying for gas less interactive. Just say “Hey Google, pay for gas” to have the vehicle’s infotainment system complete a contactless payment with Google Pay. You do have to select the fuel grade and, you know, actually pump the gas but, still. The feature will be available at Exxon and Mobil gas stations to start with support for Shell, Conoco, Phillips 66 and 76 stations coming soon.
As for the integrated Android Automotive OS (like what you’d find in select Ford, GM, and Volvo vehicles), get ready to see it in a whole bunch of new makes and models. Google announced on Thursday that its latest partner is Honda, which will begin producing vehicles with built-in AAOS come the 2022 model year, and will soon be available in both the Chevy Silverado and the Renault Mégane E-Tech.