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Google Moves to the Car With Android Auto

Google announces software tools that adapt popular mobile applications for the car.

Google made its long-anticipated move into the car, using its Google I/O developer conference to launch Android Auto software.

Andy Brenner, product manager of Android for Automotive, laid out a familiar set of problems for commuters.

The average commuter spends more than an hour in the car every day, Brenner said, but drivers are disconnected from their other devices. Even though it’s unsafe, people use their phones while driving — and 25 percent of accidents are caused by people fumbling with their gadgets while behind the wheel, Brenner said.

Android Auto software makes the phone feel like any other car accessory, allowing the driver to set the device down and use familiar car controls to use the phone. The driver can use voice or the built-in steering wheel controls to access applications on the mobile device, getting directions from Google Maps or listening to a favorite playlist stored on Google Play.
Brenner demonstrated how Android Auto integrates Google Maps as a more natural form of vehicle navigation, using local search to find a nearby gas station and projecting images onto the in-dash screen. Incoming messages show up as notifications, which can be read (and responded to) by Google Voice.

A new set of software tools that will allow developers to adapt their Android applications for the car will be published soon. Some partners — notably music services Spotify, TuneIn, MLB, Pandora and iHeart Radio — have already adapted mobile applications for the car.

The first cars using Android Auto will be available later this year, presumably with the 2015 model year. Some 40 cars makers have already signed up — including Audi, Alfa Romeo, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Volkswagen and Subaru.

Google laid the groundwork for the Android-in-the-car effort in January, announcing the Open Automotive Alliance — a then-vague effort teaming Google with car makers Audi, GM, Honda and Hyundai.

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