Android Auto is receiving a number of promising new features, including wireless connectivity, group messaging, and Google Assistant built-in. But there’s more to come in the longer term, which could fundamentally reshape the way Android Auto looks and interacts in future models.
Alongside the announcement that Volvo will be including Assistant, Maps, and Play Store on its future vehicles, Google showcased its vision for the future of the Android Auto interface at the Google I/O 2018 Automotive session. The plan appears to be to give car manufacturers more control over the look and features of Auto’s front end.
Google’s latest concept enables manufacturers to create a vehicle-specific theme with Android Auto, including colors and unique ergonomic details. The layout of the menus and details is also highly adaptable to different screen sizes and resolutions, and the design Google showcased demonstrated multiple app elements onscreen at once, including Maps navigation, Spotify controls, and Assistant reminders.
We took a look around the Dodge Ram 1500 Concept at I/O for a closer look at this new design configurations. Volvo is the only confirmed partner for Auto’s latest features so far, so Google outfitted the Dodge themselves. The UI is a more interactive car dashboard, rather than just a blown up version of a Google app. There’s Play Store support onboard, but the whole system is more closely integrated with Android Auto here too.
The new Android Auto supports more fundamental interactions with the car, making it the brain and not just an extra organ inside the car. Assistant can be used to control non-Google parts of the vehicle, so it’s a very new take on the formula. For example, Google Assistant can adjust the AC temperature up and down with voice commands. In the future, you might be able to ask “how far until I need to refuel” and make use of other bits of information from more tightly integrated car systems.
Overall, the concept makes information easier to see, easier to interact with, and more accessible via voice, and this can only make Android Auto safer to use.
In addition to the longer term concept ideas, Google is also making changes to the way messaging and media applications are displayed within Android Auto. This requires some tweaks on the developer side, but the change is designed to ensure a more consistent user experience across the growing portfolio of messaging and media apps being used in cars. To improve compatibility and functionalityapps should switch over to a template architecture that is is tied in closely to search flexible UI components that automatically organize content. For developers, these fall under the new MessagingStyle and MediaBrowse APIs.
Google’s latest efforts to improve Android Auto are consolidating its design and features to create a more consistent user experience. But the company is clearly experimenting with more bespoke designs for its vehicle partners. Nothing’s set in stone at this early concept stage, but Android Auto could end up looking a fair bit different in a few year’s time.