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Android Auto: What it is and How It Works

James Benchman
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by James Benchman

Tech giants like Apple and Google are continually going head to head with vehicle manufacturers to get the upper hand in who controls your vehicle’s dashboard.

Vehicle manufacturers prefer drivers to use their cars integrated infotainment system. However, big tech companies are paving the way for alternatives that sometimes have more attractive and intuitive packaging.

Enter Android Auto.

Google’s proprietary technology is designed to help motorists drive safer and more efficiently by reducing distractions while keeping apps within easy reach. Not sure if Android Auto is right for you?

Keep reading for everything you should know about Android Auto, including how it works, supported vehicle manufacturers, and how to set up the technology in your vehicle.

What Is Android Auto?

Android Auto is Google’s exclusive infotainment system.

You can access the information you need on the go without creating dangerous distractions while you’re on the open road. Rather than needing to navigate your mobile device’s touchscreen and drive at the same time, Android Auto brings up your phone’s notifications, messages, apps, maps, and music on the vehicle’s screen display.

You’ll also be able to access Google Assistant when behind the wheel as well. Assistant will take care of your questions and commands like it would on your mobile device or Google Home speaker system. Android Auto includes Google Maps and Waze as your essential navigation tools. Other apps compatible with Android Auto are:

  • Kik
  • Telegram
  • WhatsApp
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Google Hangouts
  • Skype
  • Google Allo
  • Signal
  • WeChat
  • Spotify
  • Google Play Music
  • Pandora
  • iHeart Radio
  • YouTube Music
  • Amazon Music
  • Audiobooks by Audible
  • NPR One

The list goes on! You get the idea though — with Android Auto, you can connect to all your favorite apps without removing your eyes from the road. Google has made some recent changes to messaging app use on Android Auto, which means that you can read a text preview. However, you’ll only be able to access preview mode of your car is stopped.

Recent Updates

Google recently updated Android Auto with some hefty new features, including some that they hinted at right before I/O 2019.  One notable change is the updated navigation bar at the bottom of your display. You’ll have the option to adjust multiple apps without having to navigate away from the screen and losing essential data.

The app launcher has also had a refresh to improve the visibility of the frequently used applications, and an increased number of apps with have Google Assistant badges. What this means, is that the system will require fewer taps to give you access to your favorite apps and install updates when you’re on the road.

Even better, the Android Auto platform can integrate directly to the dimensions of your vehicle’s dashboard screen. Another significant change is that the apps will have increased bandwidth to restart media precisely where you left off. The recent addition of night mode is another helpful feature to access your apps during nighttime driving.

How to Get Android Auto

There are several options to get Android Auto. The first couple of options are based on your vehicle’s compatibility with the Android Auto system. You’ll need to confirm that you have a compatible vehicle or a suitable aftermarket android auto stereo system.

Currently, there are roughly 400 cars that support Android Auto. If you’re not up to purchasing a brand new vehicle to use Android Auto, you’re in luck. The system supports a wide range of aftermarket speaker manufacturers, including Sony, JBL, Pioneer, Alpine, Panasonic, Unimax, Evus, and Kenwood, to name a few.

Finally, one other option to get Android Auto is to download the app on your mobile device. The app imitates the dashboard interface of the system, but directly on your phone.

How to Install and Use Android Auto

First, confirm that you either have a compatible vehicle or aftermarket speaker system to use Android Auto. You can begin by plugging your mobile device to your car with a quality USB cable. Android Auto should launch automatically, prompting you to respond “OK Google.”

Some cars also allow you to press the voice control button to launch the Google Assistant. If you opt for the app version, consider purchasing a car mount so you won’t get distracted holding your device when you need to use it.

Once Android Auto is open, you’ll see a familiar interface with the card-like appearance of Google Now. You’ll see options such as a music card with playing and pausing options or a message card with quick reply features.

You’ll also notice a shortcut menu that provides quick and easy access to your frequently used applications.

Car Makers Compatible with Android Auto

Assuming you’ve decided that Android Auto is a match made in heaven, the next important step is to determine if your vehicle type is compatible. While you could use the app instead, you’ll likely experience a much more seamless and distraction-free driving experience with the Android Auto infotainment system.

According to Google’s website, Android Auto is compatible with over 500 car models from more than 50 different brands. Google also maintains a comprehensive list of the automobile manufacturers that plan on support hands-free driving soon. Some of the top car manufacturers that currently support Android Auto include:

  • Acura
  • Audi
  • Buick
  • Cadillac
  • Chevrolet
  • Chrysler
  • Dodge
  • Fiat
  • Ford
  • GMC
  • Honda
  • Hyundai
  • Jeep
  • Kia
  • Lamborghini
  • Maserati
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Nissan
  • Subaru
  • Suzuki
  • Volkswagen
  • Volvo

Vehicle manufacturers which will support Android Auto shortly include Bentley, Infiniti, Jaguar, Land Rover, and Mazda.

See Also:

Closing Thoughts

The dangers of distracted driving because of smartphone usage behind the wheel are well known. Infotainment systems like Android Auto allow drivers to access maps, messages, music, and other helpful apps on the road without picking up their device.

The recent design updates Google rolled out for Android Auto and the growing number of car manufacturers that support this infotainment system, provide motorists enhanced safety and accessibility from anywhere. It’s only a question of technology and time until these systems become standard vehicle equipment.

About James Benchman
James Benchman
James is an Automotive Mechanic with over 20 years experience and 300+ car repairs. He is an expert with cars and has worked with different models from the biggest brands. James is a Mechanic , Husband , Father of 3 , and head of content at Caraudiologic. Learn more about us
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