AH Android Auto Logo

Android Auto Held Back By Auto Manufacturers Proprietary UI Design

November 20, 2014 - Written By Mark Collins

You may remember back in June at Google I/O Android Auto was being shown off. It was an early version still under development but it gave us a good idea of what was to be expected from the service within the driver’s seat. Engadget got some hands on time with a newer refined version at the LA Auto Show this week and shared their experiences.

Android Auto is designed around using your phones processor to power it. The system is not a stand-alone system for all auto functions, but rather a separate additional operating system within the display of the automobile. The automakers UI is still used for functions that are not a usual feature of Android. The UI of Android Auto is based on Material Design just as you would expect of all new versions of Android at this point. On the phone a logo of ‘Android Auto’ appears when it is connected to the system. By connection I mean a USB cable, as all the processing runs through this cable for Android Auto. The system is built around speech and voice input control for a safe environment and less distractions. The phone is locked during use for distraction free experience. If you are familiar with Android (and I’m sure you are if you are reading Android Headlines), then you will feel right at home with the user experience that you get from Android Auto.

Android Auto is almost finished with development refinements, and will be available in 2015 models. As with the 2015 Hyundai Sonata that it was being demonstrated on, some car models if purchased prior to Android Auto’s release can be upgraded once available. As stated earlier, the main underlying issue with the UI of the system, is that it will be shared with the manufacturers UI for the other automobiles functions. With that being said, the auto will essentially have two different UI for the customer to get used to, and visually see they are different. I can’t help but wonder how this could effect how polished the system will look. Could this effect the use and sale of the feature? Will it cause customers to avoid using the system?

Apps for Android Auto should be quick to come to market as Google has already allowed music streaming service Spotify to have early access to the SDK and will be available at release. Hopefully automakers will see the confusion that having two separate UI’s could cause for customers. Developing an Android app to be used on Android Auto could increase customer use and satisfaction of the system. This will aid in keeping the systems tied together without the visual and functional complexity that will hamper the current designs.

android_auto_gpsOne alternate system came from Volvo. They designed their system to work side by side with Android Auto so that both were available to the driver at the same time rather than backing out of one into the other. Either way, I have never been a fan of proprietary UI’s from auto makers. It appears that maybe the reason for this separation, is to keep the automaker in charge of the systems main functions rather than rely on what they consider to be a 3rd party UI. Customers will undoubtably state their objectives to the functions and maybe then the proprietary system will evolve into Android Auto.

At least the experience of Android will finally be felt in the car where we spend so much time. With it finally making its way into the car, it could finally help to reduce unsafe texting while driving. Technology should be helping and simplifying our lives, not complicating it or putting us in harms way. I know that I am anticipating the arrival of Android Auto either way. It will grow and improve within time. How do you feel about it’s design so far?