Google Android Auto is getting a huge upgrade soon. If unfamiliar with Google Android Auto, it is a downloadable smartphone app that can be installed and operated for free. In an effort to more seamlessly connect consumer’s cars and phones, as well as improve driver safety, the Google Android Auto app replaces the smartphone as the interface when connected to the car. The infotainment touchscreen display then interacts with one’s smartphone via Android Auto, giving the driver options to various apps by using the touchscreen in the dash as the interface rather than the phone. This provides for drivers the ability to keep their eyes on the road rather than scanning their smartphone. Now with its new upgrades and add-ons, Google is packing a lot more features into the Android Auto app, but some wonder if it’s too much.
Recently, the new Google Android Auto platform was tested on a Range Rover Velar (yes, Google works with brands out of the Fiat Chrysler Automobile Group, and the betrayal is bitter). The upgraded app is designed to help keep a balance between the driver and their smartphone, and the new features are really quite something.
Possibly one of the most interesting new features is the way the app shows up on the vehicle’s infotainment touchscreen. Once the Android Auto app connects the smartphone to the vehicle’s infotainment system, Google was immediately able to show off the Android Auto widescreen mode (seen below) due to the Range Rover Velar having a bit of a wide touchscreen. Contained within this widescreen mode was Android Auto’s improved media app in a split-screen that displayed the time and navigation to its right – much like the new split screen feature of the 2019 Ram 1500 new 12-inch vertical touchscreen display.
Included in the media app display was a nifty new feature that displays recent and new downloads the consumer may have acquired since the last time Android Auto was plugged in. At-a-glance, the driver could see albums, audiobook covers, and more that they could listen to while on the road. This new feature was called “content-forward-browsing” by Google. Moreover, metadata could tell the driver if a particular piece of music or an audiobook had already finished downloading, letting the driver know that playback wouldn’t be interrupted due to poor wireless connectivity via the mobile phone.
The search function in the Google Android Auto app has also been vastly improved. Now, the Android Auto Google Assistant allows drivers to use voice commands to search for albums, songs, and artists. Sounds like a function cue taken from Amazon’s Echo virtual assistant, not that we mind. Interestingly enough, like music streaming services today, searching for music will also bring up related content on the infotainment touchscreen, such as other songs, albums, and related artists the driver may select next.
Texting has also been improved with the new features found in Google Android Auto. As if to take a page straight from the Uconnect infotainment system, messaging with Google Android Auto looks a little more like the smartphone integration of next-generation Uconnect 4C. When receiving a text, the infotainment touchscreen displays who is texting, and if parked, a small preview of the text. If on the road and driving, Android Auto’s Google Assistant would offer to read the message aloud like normal.
Navigating through the Android Auto app has also been made easier, and again takes some cues from Uconnect 4C. This time, demonstrated on the new 2019 Ram 1500 12-inch touchscreen (seen above), an entire selection of apps can be displayed at once. And with the new split-function of the touchscreen, the driver can toggle between navigation, media playback, and hands-free telephone calls on either side. If looking closely, one may notice the top-left corner of the touchscreen displays the “Google Play” icon and name. That’s because Google actually replaced the Uconnect infotainment system in this 2019 Ram 1500 unit and embedded their own system running Android Auto to showcase how Google Services like Maps and the Play Store may be integrated into automobiles going forward.
Future vehicles may incorporate these Google Services and more in the coming years. With the competition between Google and Apple, we’re sure we’ll see an Apple-based infotainment system as well soon enough. What do you think? Will these new features make it easier to operate one’s smartphone while on the road, or are they just going to add more distractions? Let us know your thoughts on Miami Lakes Ram social media.