It took several months, but the Android Auto overhaul is here. Google is now rolling out its redesigned in-car experience for Android users. As mentioned at I/O, the redesigned interface streamlines navigation, communication and media playback. Maps is in a more driver-friendly position, while the split-screen view offers quick access to music and texts regardless of your car’s screen orientation. There’s finally a media progress bar, and conversation shortcuts (shown below) help you make calls and reply to messages.
Google is expanding Android Auto’s functionality at the same time. Newer Pixel and Samsung phones will “soon” let you place WhatsApp calls, the company says. Assistant now offers smart suggestions for missed calls, arrival time sharing, music and podcasts.
There are a few vehicular upgrades coming beyond Android Auto. Digital car key sharing is coming to Samsung phones in the near future, while Xiaomi phone owners will have the option later in 2023. The keys themselves will be available for makes other than BMW, although Google didn’t say when that might happen. HD maps are coming to the Polestar 3 and Volvo EX90 to boost their autonomous and assistance features. YouTube is also coming to cars with Google built-in, so you’ll have more to watch while you’re charging or parked.
To some extent, the Android Auto upgrade was necessary. Apple has previewed a next-gen CarPlay interface that’s not only more useful, but can take over more of a car’s infotainment system. Google’s revamp isn’t directly equivalent, but might give automakers a stronger incentive to support Android Auto in an increasingly competitive market.