Back in January Google gave us hints of its plans to bring Android to the car. It formed a global alliance with auto manufacturers called the Open Automotive Alliance. Since then there has been shortage of rumors about what Google’s solution will be and today it finally showed off what it has been working on. Introducing Android Auto, its very much the Android experience we have grown to love but redesigned completely for automobiles.
The idea behind Android Auto is make it easier and safer for you to use the connected apps and service you like in the car. It puts some of the most used apps and services front and center, these include navigation, communications, music and other streaming media apps. The thoughtful placement ensures that you don’t have to go hunting for those applications through rows and rows of icons when you are on the road.
Android Auto is completely voice enabled which means that you never have to take your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road. It is contextually aware, presenting only the information when you need it.
It is essentially a casting experience. You connect your Android device to the car which then casts the Android Auto experience to the in-dash screen. All of the apps run on the phone itself so the user experience improves when the apps are updated or when you simply get a much more powerful phone. You can all every single app in Android Auto through the in-dash touchscreen, buttons on the steering wheel or even the console dials. Moreover, since it’s powered by the Android device, you can bring your own personal Android Auto experience to any supported car.
As soon as the device is hooked up the overview screen displays contextually relevant information, including but not limited to favorite contacts, apps and more. Local search feature is supported, turn by turn navigation and live traffic information can also be easily accessed.
Google Maps was one of the applications that were demoed during the announcement. Its powerful on Android Auto because it is completely voice enabled. Instructions are always spoken during navigation and are also displayed on the in-dash screen in the material card interface that comes as part and parcel of the Android L release.
Voice enabled messaging was also demoed. An incoming message is show as a heads up notification so you never have to launch the Maps app again if a message comes during navigation. From there you can reply using voice commands, again without having to do away with the app that was already running.
A SDK or software development kit for Android Auto has been announced as well which developers can use to tailor their experiences. The company will also release the full set of APIs for audio and messaging apps. The SDK will be published “soon,” though Google didn’t give a concrete date.
Google says that the first cars that support Android Auto will roll off assembly lines before the end of this year, adding that over 40 new manufacturers have now signed up for the Open Automotive Alliance.