Google Android Auto headed to your next car’s touchscreen

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Google-Android-Auto-300It’s no longer enough to have Google Maps and Google searches on select new Audis, BMWs and Nissans. Google wants to take over those big touchscreens completely.

Following Apple CarPlay earlier this year, Google will be releasing Android Auto with its next operating system update that allows any Android device to mirror itself on the car’s dash and operate through the car’s factory controls. When connected by both a USB cable and wirelessly over Bluetooth, Android Auto shows a custom interface for Google navigation, Google Play streaming music, phone contacts, text messages and other third-party applications approved by the automaker.

It’s very similar to how the operating system functions on the phone itself and takes advantage of Google’s own voice recognition — along with the tech giant’s penchant for locating its users and delivering targeted information before those users even ask (such as route alternatives to a daily commute). Soon, we’re pretty sure Google will send over location-based advertising straight onto the dash.

Apple CarPlay works the same way and Microsoft is also working on a similar phone-tethering system for Windows Phone users. Considering what we’ve already seen on factory infotainment systems, there is nothing at all revolutionary happening here. Rather, automakers want to make their cars more responsive to tech updates — after all, Android Auto runs on the phone and can easily take a wireless update that can add new features to the car — and allow drivers greater choice of their car’s robust computer system.


So far, Audi, Volvo and Hyundai have announced firm plans to use Android Auto in upcoming 2015 and 2016 models. The 2015 Hyundai Sonata and 2015 Volvo XC90 are just two of several confirmed models (Audi said it wouldn’t offer it until next year) and we’ll expect more announcements in the coming months. Google claims it has 28 auto brands on board, although similar to Apple’s promise of widespread adoption, most automakers are reluctant to add these untested electronics in a car’s current product cycle — hence the wait.


Notably absent from Google’s big list are Tesla, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Tesla and Cadillac have both touted their own custom interfaces and haven’t signed up with Apple CarPlay, either. With Android making up more than three-quarters of the worldwide smartphone market, we’ll bet automakers — given an incentive that doesn’t just promote Google for Google’s sake — won’t be sitting ducks for too much longer.

Clifford Atiyeh

Clifford Atiyeh

Clifford Atiyeh has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own. Based in Connecticut, he writes for BestRide, Car and Driver, The Boston Globe and other publications.