Google’s car-friendly user interface is more important than ever
It’s been a long way to go for the new Android Auto redesign. After some unofficial announcements were made early this year, Google has finally taken to the stage to reveal its updated dashboard user interface for cars, which promising drivers will have access to by summer. Six months later, Auto’s new look – codenamed Coolwalk – has just appeared in public beta. Given some of the improvements Google has made, it’s hard to say the wait wasn’t worth it. After all, with Android Auto becoming the main way people interact with their cars while driving, this update has a lot more to ride on.
Over the past few years, Google’s relationship with cars has been in flux. Back in 2019, the company announced Driving Assistant Mode, a new service designed to replace Auto’s phone screen mode. It took over two years for the app to launch with its dedicated home screen, but even then, it wasn’t that long in this world. Google actually killed it in October, keeping the cover based on Google Maps while giving up everything else. Meanwhile, Android Auto for phone screens is dead twice – First for phones with Android 12, then for everyone else.
Aside from a few different phone screen alternatives, I left Android Auto – the original car-based version – as the primary way for drivers to safely interact with their phones while on the road. Since the last rework in 2019, Google has continued to evolve its look, all resulting in this year’s user interface redesign.
Android Auto has also evolved on a technological level. Wireless capabilities are now available in more cars than ever before, allowing users to bypass the scramble for a USB-C cable every time they crawl into the driver’s seat. Aftermarket dongles made it possible to add wireless support to your existing vehicle, just as dashboard units continue to give older vehicles a gateway to Auto. While Android Automotive isn’t the same thing, it also powers more cars from companies like GM and Volvo, bringing an Android experience to drivers no matter what phone they’re on.
When we last did this survey three years ago, the state of how we interact with our cars was very different than it is today. The phone app disappeared, Auto became almost standard on all new cars – and more readily available on used cars – and its design continued to evolve. In 2019, nearly half of respondents relied on Android Auto in their cars; I wouldn’t be surprised to see that number higher this time.
So, are you an Android Auto user? Did your car come with it, or do you rely on an aftermarket unit? Or maybe your car uses Android Automotive – I’ve added options for those users who keep their phones connected and for those who don’t. Personally, I’ve been using the Auto feature built into my car since 2019 and can’t imagine driving without it. I bet a lot of our readers feel the same way, so tell us in the survey below.
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