We've heard all this talk about Android Auto lately. Especially since Google I/O 2014. But what exactly is it? Well now that we've had a chance to see how some car makers are integrating it into their existing infotainment system, we can actually explain a bit more what Android Auto is. Especially for those that might be new to Android or just aren't as geeky as the rest of us.
Back at Google I/O this past year, Google announced Android Auto. Which is actually part of Android 5.0 Lollipop. What it is, is actually an infotainment system that controls your phone. So for example with Hyundai's implementation you have their own infotainment system. But when you plug in your Android smartphone running on Android 5.0 or later, you will see an option for Android Auto, that takes you to a new screen that looks kinda like Google Now. From there you have four buttons. The middle is your homescreen or the Google Now like screen. You also have Navigation with Google Maps, the Phone, and Music which uses Google Music by default but it does work with other apps like iHeartRadio, Spotify, and many more coming soon.
So what's the big deal with Android Auto? Well it means you have a seamless interface from your phone to your car. The interface you'll see on the screen in your car is the same as you'd see on your smartphone, just a bigger screen. Now with Hyundai and Chevy, there are buttons on the steering wheel that allow you to change the volume of the music, as well as using voice control so you can say something like "Call Work" and it'll call you the number you have listed for work, and use the speakers from the car. Which is pretty sweet.
Could Android Auto be distracting? It can be, but what infotainment system isn't? At least with Android Auto, it's the same user experience you'd get on your phone so you can probably use it blindfolded. Which means you can keep your eyes on the road.
Android Auto is a great product, so far. But it's not fully complete. According to various car makers, Android Auto is still in development from Google and there's no timeline for when it'll be complete. But we have a number of car makers that have already implemented it and have shown it off at various shows like CES and NAIAS just this month. So it's coming, and coming real soon. I, personally, cannot wait.