Google has unveiled some of the changes it has planned for Android Auto, set to be fully revealed at this year's Google I/O 2018 Developers Conference which starts tomorrow, May 8. The new additions include new visual templates, media search enhancements, and group messaging improvements, alongside the introduction of rich communications services (RCS) support.
The last of those updates, RCS and group messaging, is fairly straightforward. It effectively means that users will be able to utilize Google Assistant to take part in group or individual messages. Assistant will be able to use voice-to-text and text-to-speech in order to read incoming messages and formulate the user's response without that user needing to take their hands off the wheel or eyes off the road. The changes to the design layouts and to search appear to be similarly geared toward speeding up interactions and, as a result, making the use of Android Auto safer. The first of those is the introduction of new visual templates which should make navigation much more intuitive. Google provides the example of opening a media streaming app and having browsable content placed at the forefront, making it easier and faster for users to select their music or podcast. Beyond that, finding new listening experiences will be both faster and more discovery-oriented depending on the app chosen. That's because media apps will be able to directly integrate their own search results into Android Auto. That should make it easier for new music to be found, with Google providing examples such as the live version of songs or songs with a similar name from other artists. It should also make the whole process faster. Moreover, Google says these changes will be present on both systems that rely on a connected smartphone and the in-car stereos that run Android right out of the box.
Even though these new Android Auto enhancements will be shown off at the upcoming event, that doesn't mean they'll be arriving for users this spring. With that said, the company did go a bit further to give away some of the apps and third-party developers that will be taking advantage of these and other unannounced changes. Those include iHeartRadio, Pandora, Pocket Casts, Spotify, Telegram, WhatsApp, and Google's Android Messages, Play Books, and Play Music. That should mean the new features have a fair amount of support once they do launch. In the meantime, the Android Auto-related news will be shared during the Automotive Sessions at Google I/O on May 9 at 9:30 am PST and Google will also have three vehicles on display which showcase the changes. Those will be found in one of the event's Sandbox areas.