Google’s Android Auto for People With Dumb Cars Is Good

A photo of a hand holding up a Pixel 5 with the Assistant Driving Mode interface on it, with a car in the background

The new Assistant Driving Mode will help you get locations with out touching the display screen whereas behind the wheel.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

I dwell within the California suburbs, recognized for their relative un-walkability, exacerbated by the presence of rolling hills and sweltering sizzling days. I depend on my automobile to get me and my household locations, and I would like the least distraction potential after I’m behind the wheel.

I adopted Android Auto again in 2016 as my getting older automobile’s in-dash leisure system when Google phone-only model of Android Auto for automobiles with out infotainment programs. Eventually, producers like Anker began making third-party adapters just like the Roav Bolt, which plug right into a automobile outlet and broadcast audio by the automobile’s audio system by way of Bluetooth. It was a manner for me to cheat out of upgrading my automobile to get hands-free options.

But Google plans to get rid of the Android Auto standalone telephone app and is as a substitute pivoting to a extra streamlined expertise contained in the Google Maps app. It’s referred to as Assistant Driving Mode, and it’s began rolling out to pick units, in line with 9to5Google. If you’re operating the Android 12 Beta, you need to see it pop up when you shout out, “Start driving mode” or, “Let’s drive” to the Google Assistant. Some have additionally reported it popping up on Android 11 units operating the Google Assistant beta, which you’ll flip on by the Play Store, although I couldn’t get it to come back up myself.

I did handle to get it to work on the Pixel 5 with the newest Android 12 beta replace. There’s a support page in the event you want extra assist getting it to point out up. The new UI is meant to be out there with out coming into a vacation spot, however I used to be solely in a position to get the brand new house display screen the primary time I requested the Assistant to launch the characteristic, after which it realized I wasn’t driving wherever and reverted to Google Maps. The backside right-hand nook of the Maps app shows just a little app drawer button such as you’d see on Android, and urgent that takes you to a driving launcher of kinds.

Three screenshots, side-by-side, of the new Assistant Driving Mode

The new Assistant Driving Mode is a totally reprised Android app launcher for the automobile.
Screenshot: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

You can select your apps from right here, just like the best way you’d browse by apps within the Android Auto launcher on vehicles which have it embedded within the sprint. Each little app has an interface that populates with fast hyperlinks and playlists if it’s a media playback app. There are additionally fast buttons to make a name, ship and consider messages, or look by media playlists curated for you by the Assistant in apps like YouTube Music and Google Podcasts—two apps I don’t use in any respect. I even marked Spotify as my default music participant within the Google Assistant settings, however I don’t have entry to these playlists until I particularly faucet into the Spotify app.

There is not any again button on Assistant Driving Mode, so if you wish to transfer on to a different process or one other app, you’ll need to faucet the launcher and choose the choice that fits you. Or you possibly can utter the, “Hey Google” command, which is what this characteristic is meant to encourage you to do, anyway. It’s why you’d purchase an adjunct just like the Roav Bolt, which provides a microphone to your automobile so it might probably hear you say it, and why Google is shifting away from the unique look of Android Auto on the telephone.

Two screenshots, side by side, of the two versions of Android Auto and Assistant Driving Mode

The Pocket Casts app on the Assistant Driving Mode (proper) has fewer menus to dig by than the unique Android Auto app (left) for the smartphone.
Screenshot: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

The new Assistant Driving Mode isn’t excellent, nevertheless it seems like a step in the appropriate course. It’s a lot better than the initial preview I noticed at Google I/O in 2019, the place I noticed an illustration of a full-page interface that long-scrolled by every of the characteristic choices out there whereas driving. The interface can also be a lot simpler to faucet by with one finger, and there are fewer menus to take care of, most likely why there’s now not a “back” button to tug you thru menu buildings. The key to a secure in-car interface is which you could look at it to get the data you want with out taking your focus off the highway (which is why I attempt to keep away from driving on beta software program!).

I hope it can grow to be just a little simpler to get to the curated house display screen with out coming into navigation mode or the automobile having to acknowledge movement. After all, what if I’m driving nowhere particularly, however I nonetheless need to shuffle by my music? I can entry the Assistant Driving Mode to start out the music, however provided that I arrange a vacation spot, which I don’t all the time have to do.

With the Android Auto telephone app heading to the Google Graveyard quickly, it’s good to see that Google is making an attempt to enhance the Assistant Driving Mode. It makes it simpler for these of us with out Android Auto-compatible vehicles to have options and apps which are optimized for safer driving.