Android Auto

What we know so far about Android in your car

Android Auto

Following up on the announcement of the Open Automotive Alliance in January, Google took the stage at I/O 2014 to introduce just how it's going to be getting inside your car. Android Auto is its name and bringing Android apps and services to your car is its game.

It'll be a little while before we're behind the wheel of a new car with Android Auto inside – Google said we should expect the first before the end of 2014 – so it gives us a chance to digest and developers a chance to get their apps ready. It's something we're eager to get our hands on but in the meantime, here's what you need to know about Android Auto.

What is Android Auto?

In simple terms, it's Android, for your car. In much the same way as Apple has done with it's CarPlay system, Android Auto will be baked into future releases of Android for your mobile devices beginning with the L release. It'll give you in-car access to your phone functions like calls and messaging, apps like Google Play Music and Google Maps for navigation, voice search and a whole lot more.

With an SDK being made available to Android developers, it opens up many possibilities. Already announced partners on Google's official Android Auto site include Major League Baseball that will be giving you access to its content – presumably including audio streams – inside the car, Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio for your music needs and Pocket Casts for your podcasts. The SDK will be available for audio and messaging apps so there's a chance whichever your favorite is will find its way in there.

How does it work?

Android Auto

This one's important to remember. Android Auto is on your phone, not embedded into the car. This is the same approach Apple took with CarPlay and is probably the best way to go about it. The auto manufacturers build support for the platform into their own systems – many built on top of the BlackBerry owned QNX OS – and then Android Auto becomes visible to you when you connect your phone.

This also means it's entirely possible – as Volvo has already announced – to support both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in the same model vehicle. For car buyers this really is the best solution since a car purchase is much different to buying a phone. And we really wouldn't want to have to choose a car based on our mobile preferences, would we?

Android Auto also has built in support for steering wheel controls, meaning you're still able to perform such actions as changing the track you're listening too, adjusting the volume and answering a call without taking your hands off the wheel. Should you have a button that would activate voice control you'll be able to use the voice activated features in Android also from the steering wheel.

Ultimately the way Android Auto is handled will undoubtedly vary across different manufacturers. Volvo has chosen to keep some of its own car controls and data visible at all times alongside Android Auto. Others may choose to cover up all traces of the stock systems.

What does it look like?

Android Auto

In simple terms, it looks like Android. That's important to anyone using it. Familiarity is key – especially since you'll often be moving while this is in operation – but equally important are the interface changes that make it more suitable for use in the car.

Since Android Auto is built on Android L it follows the new look and the Material Design principles shown off at Google I/O. How third-party apps look will depend upon their respective developers, but Google's own apps look to have been adapted well for the car with big touch areas and that anything presenting you with information is easy to read.

When can I get it?

Android Auto

Google announced on stage that the first new cars with Android Auto would be on the road before the end of 2014. In any case since it relies on Android L, we'll have to wait for that to begin to push out to devices, too. As yet there's no timeframe for that.

A couple of car makers have already confirmed their plans. Audi has committed to putting it in vehicles in 2015 while Volvo's first car, the new XC90, will be unveiled in October at the Paris Motor Show.

So, who's going to be supporting it?

Open Automotive Alliance

The Open Automotive Alliance has just expanded with 40 new members, all of which will be able to use Android Auto. Importantly not all of the members are car makers, so there's hope for folks to get this into their existing vehicles instead of needing to wait until they buy a new one. Alpine, Clarion and JVCKenwood are three of the bigger names in third-party in-car equipment that have joined up.

On the auto maker front, the list now encompasses a real blend across the whole spectrum of the market. At the top end we've got the likes of Bentley and Maserati on board, followed by Audi, Volvo, Dodge, Chevrolet, Ford and many other more mainstream car manufacturers. Many of us would love a new Bentley, but it's good to know you're able to get similar in-car technology in a Fiat with Android Auto!

More to come

We're still only scratching the surface with Android Auto. As the SDK gets into developers hands and we get closer to an actual release date there's bound to be much more to get our teeth into. With a big auto show in Europe scheduled for October it's a reasonable bet we'll be seeing some of the actual vehicles taking Android Auto onto the road around that time, but it's going to be an interesting ride. If there's something you're particularly excited for, give it a shout out in the comments below!


Reader comments

What you need to know about Android Auto


This is great for people who plan to buy a new car in the next year or two, in the class of cars that has a touchscreen interface. But those of us who buy lower-end models or don't plan to buy a new car soon can't take advantage.
Google really needs to step up to the plate and make this new auto interface available as a new "CarHome" app so the rest of us can place our phones in docks and take advantage of the same hands-free (or hands-minimal) experience.

This. We already have these devices, we should be able to transform them into another screen in car.

Posted via Android Central App

Actually, yes you can. Clarion, Alpine, Kenwood, and Pioneer are all isted there. I would be willing to bet at least one of them will have an aftermarket deck out within the next 8-10 months. I would think these will cost $500 or even less, considering the Pioneer AppRadio 2 came in around that price (though is available now for much less), and is extremely similar to the hardware necessary for an Android Auto deck. And since your phone does most of the heavy lifting (navigation maps, GPS, music services, etc.), it should cost them even less to make, and therefore be pretty cheap.

That's what I'm waiting for. I was planning on changing my stock - base model car's - stereo for the touchscreen one's that the pricier models have (my radio is in a huge box with looooads of plastic all around it). I'll just wait for a nice aftermarket android radio and somebody to make a nice wire harness that integrates my USB port and steering wheel buttons. I'll then have a slick Android Auto. *put's cool shades on*

Me too, I didn't see Nissan on the list (I drive a Maxima, but I'm mad at Nissan because it's bluetooth doesn't work with my EVO 4G (for some strange reason it doesn't support all phones and bluetooths... no idea why)... So I'm really exited about the steering wheel integration and being able to buy an Android aftermarket radio. The first one to come out with a radio that supports an Android/XM/FM hybrid will have me sold.

I really think car manufacturers should come out with "Radio Upgrades"... Easy revenue stream for them... They could work with their existing vendors and install them themselves for a nice profit.

actually, I think this is better for the people who are not ready to buy a car for a little bit. I'm sure in a year or two, most manufactures will still be developing their stuff as most models follow around a 3-4 year cycle with very small changes in between. their testing and design processes can take quite awhile, starting with few models then working their way down. also expect there to be issues at first, it might take a generation or two to get some of the kinks worked out.

by the time you are going to be ready to buy a lower end model next, it may just be to the point where you are in the prime spot. look at Ford, their SYNC system is now available in every model including the smallest Fiesta.

more importantly, the aftermarket companies are always the ones pioneering these systems and usually have the best working systems. older, lower end cars are the best market for these as they tend to be the easiest to have aftermarket systems put in. and is usually a better value for customers as they can make these small upgrades to their cars to bring them more up to date. this makes them even more popular as you don't mind keeping that older car just a little while longer. you sir are in the catbird seat.

Keep in mind that the NHTSA is requiring all consumer vehicles to have a backup camera starting in 2016. So manufacturer's are required to have these large screens in the car. Also keep in mind that it was mentioned that Android Auto can be control by the physical knobs and buttons, as well as voice. So it won't NEED to be touchscreen.

So even the lower-end models (which as a result won't be so low-end anymore) will have large screens and be able to run Android Auto.

Google, like Apple, need to think a bit more about offline maps if they want this to be useful worldwide.

Cached maps aren't worth a shit if you require a data connection to search or reroute.

Posted via Android Central App

They only last 30 days, but can't you download a map for an area? That should serve any temporary needs you have.

Posted via Android Central App

There are third party head unit makers in the alliance. I imagine there will be a few models to pick from soon.

Posted from my Nexus 5

same here. I installed a double DIN unit a couple years ago to get bluetooth. As soon as someone has a good double-DIN unit, i'll swap that out.

this will be a big battle with Apple. it appears that Mercedes, BMW, Lexus, Porsche, Toyota, and many more have cast their lot with Apple.

Why would there be a battle? It depends on the phone the user has. A manufacturer's system can support both Android TV and CarPlay, like Volvo is doing. I'd imagine manufacturers don't want to tie their vehicles to a single system.

Posted via Android Central App

Shouldn't be that hard. Since it needs a cable all you need is a USB interface though what it takes behind the scenes I don't know. But if Volvo is doing it it's obviously possible.

Either that or it's an option when you buy the car. Tick CarPlay or Android Auto depending on what you use.

Im pretty sure it is feasible to support both

there was an entire paragraph written just about that...

"This also means it's entirely possible – as Volvo has already announced – to support both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in the same model vehicle."

they are already doing it. doesn't get much more feasible than that.

You've got it WRONG! LOL. QNX is behind many systems. In autos it helps the front facing iOS for car and android for exist and is NOT being replaced sorry, wrong

Many articles have already advanced the use of QNX in cars WITH iOS for car AND android. Go GODDLE it...I mean Google it. LOL. Just slurs and NO descenting information? I bet you are a 16 year old fanboy aren't you?

New car stereo support = great for the industry, but meh for me personally.

Aftermarket stereo maker support = world peace!

I like that they are not forcing device makers to use it "as is." If they want some of their own elements displayed or want to add other features, they can.

Posted from my Nexus 5

I'm actually a bit worried about that. Don't you think we could see the TouchWiz of infotainment systems? Car manufacturers are already known for building horrible in-car systems.

Posted via Android Central App

This is quite lame - I own a 2014 Dodge Dart, couldn't Chrysler just freakin' push out an update that enables Android Auto in my car? It has a USB slot and accepts downloaded firmware updates, there's no reason this should only be available to new car buyers.

in the same manner that your current watch is not a smartwatch, your current car cannot upgrade to a connected car. There's more involved than a head unit.

My current watch isn't a smart watch because it doesn't have a screen. Or a processor. Or a battery. Or anything really aside from gears and screws.

Android Auto is just an interface that pulls content and information from an Android phone. It doesn't require new hardware - all the work is coming from the device. So again, I don't see why it can't happen in an update.

This is a great step forward, and I can't wait until it's available in cars. However, it really needs to be wireless. I don't want to have to take my phone out of my pocket every time, and hook it up to some cable. That will get really old after awhile. It needs to connect via bluetooth or wifi, exactly as in-car phone options do now.

Same, if it requires a wire I'm not sure I'd care much for it I'd only use it when I need GPS and such... For daily music/phone use I'd rather leave the phone in my pocket and go BT otherwise.

Hopefully someone will make an add on harness connector for current cars.. Sync kinda sucks on the Ford Escape..

This was the best news at io. Car radios are terrible at both software and navigation.

Can't wait till Crutchfield starts announcing aftermarket radios! Aftermarket radio's have long ago incorporated steering wheel controls either natively or with an add on harness. So compatibility with old cars will be Non issue.

It shouldn't take long since its a simple LCD screen and it should cost a lot less than the overpriced and poorly implemented OEM navigation units.
Can't wait!!!
And also I would absolutely eliminate a car manufacture that didn't support Android. Why wouldn't you?
Posted via Serenity

My lease is up next month, and I'm getting a Ford Fusion. I'm hoping that Android Auto will be available in some form for today's cars that have touch screen interfaces... It'd be a shame to alienate all the vehicles on the road now that could support it.

It is better to be phone-agnostic, like Volvo is, showing them how it's done. The others may follow soon enough, once they remember that Android dominates in market share.

Posted via Android Central App

Great, another screen to look at. Personally I hate the idea of this whole, "let's put an OS on everything movement."

But whatever floats your boat :)

Posted via Android Central App

those screens have been around for decades now, infotainment systems weren't just thought up this week...

the problem is that people are already using their phones while driving, which they are going to continue to increase doing as phones become better and start doing more...

at least this moves toward making those actions as safe as they can be, by pressing a button by their resting hands and speak what they want. what ever helps to keep phones in pockets is a step in the right direction.

No I know what you mean, this is just more of a personal preference. I just see driving as my way of disconnecting for a bit, kind of a break from being on my phone constantly.

But again whatever floats your boat lol

Posted via Android Central App

Can i put my 4G-Tablet in my car and use AA on it? Because THAT would be sweeeeeeet!

Maybe just buy an adapter for the steering wheel controls and a external mic for better voice input.

I am using my old xoom in my car right now - but it would be that much easier with AA...

I wonder how in dash GPS companies like Garmin are going to respond to this. It basically takes them out of the game. And in car hard drives, etc.

Whats wrong with Parrot Asteroid Smart or tablet ?
I have Mini..... it runs on Android, it can be integrated in any car stock stereo unit.

Assuming it is using the phone's GPS, the phone will be needed to be in a position to receive the GPS signal. I guess this removes any chance there will be a wireless version anytime soon.

For those that have older model cars and would like to shop for an aftermarket model, Parrot introduced an option at this years CES that features both Android Auto & Apple CarPlay for your current car. They will have 3 models starting at $700 to $1400. Not sure of the release date just yet. Should be soon. Here's their video.