Over the past year or so, Android Auto been stuck in neutral. Even by removing the car requirement and making Android Auto a standalone app, the initiative hasn’t really picked up speed. We’re still waiting for most of our favorite apps to join the fray (including Waze, which was promised at last year’s I/O), and for the most part, Android Auto hasn’t really advanced beyond its initial concept.
However, a new partnership with Audi and Volvo aims to kick it into high gear. According to a blog post, Google is taking Android Auto out of our phones and putting it directly into our cars with a full-on Android dashboard. We first got a pie-in-the-sky peek at an Android-powered Maserati at I/O last year, but now Google is serious about delivering on its vision.
Project manager Haris Ramic says the new system will work with familiar apps like Google Maps, Spotify, and NPR, but also “could allow you to control your air conditioning, sunroof, and windows.” Additionally, the new system will integrate with Google Assistant, much like Apple has teamed with Toyota and other manufacturers with Siri Eyes Free. Google has previously announced that it will be adding Google Assistant to Android Auto.
Bloomberg News adds some more context, saying that drivers will not need to plug in an Android phone to access any of the system’s features, and car makers will have the ability to customize the controls, interface, and applications pre-loaded into the operating system, just like phone makers do.
The version of the software that Bloomberg saw had “three main windows for users: a central panel for playing music, making calls and navigating; another with a grid of core car functions; and a third that lists installed Android apps. A button on the steering wheel and a voice command can activate the Google Assistant.”
Google said it will be previewing the new Volvo and Audi Android Auto systems at I/O this week.
The road ahead: This is the logical next step for Android Auto. While the current app-centric method is fine, a system on top of a system isn’t the most elegant solution, and it limits what Google can do to enhance it—after all, we’re still waiting for wireless support, Waze, and Google Assistant. We can’t wait to get a look at the new car integrations at I/O, and hope Google has many more partnerships to announce in the months ahead.