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What is Android Auto and how does it work?

Everything you need to know about the Android vehicle experience.
By
July 26, 2022

Android doesn’t just power your phones, tablets, and TVs, but also your car. You can connect your phone to your car’s display via Android Auto to access navigation tools, make hands-free calls and texts, listen to music, and more while on the road. Here’s everything you need to know about Android Auto.

Read more: Ten best Android Auto apps to get the most out of it

THE SHORT ANSWER

Android Auto is a mobile app that brings your favorite music, media and messaging apps to your car's dashboard. Once an Android device is paired with your car, you can access certain Android apps via your vehicle's touchscreen display and dashboard.


ARRIVE AT KEY DESTINATIONS

What is Android Auto?

Android Auto is a mobile app developed by Google to mirror the experience of using an Android device on your car’s dashboard information and entertainment unit.

Android Auto interface tata harrier
Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

After pairing an Android device with the car’s head unit, you can access some apps on the vehicle’s display. Supported apps include GPS mapping and navigation, music playback, SMS, telephone, and Web search. The system supports both touchscreen and button-controlled navigation. However, hands-free operation through voice commands with Google assistant is recommended to reduce driver distraction.

Frequent users can also participate in beta programs to test the functionality of new features and apps.

How does Android Auto work?

Android Auto works by plugging your Android smartphone into your car via a USB cable and connecting your apps to your vehicle’s system via WI-FI or mobile data.

Here’s what you need to use Android Auto on your car display with a USB cable:

Alternatively, wireless projection is compatible with any phone with Android 11, a Google or Samsung phone with Android 10, or a Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+ and above, or Note 8 and above with at least Android 9.

Android Auto in Volkswagen ID.4 Connecting With Smartphone
C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

The app is easy to set up. Once you have to app downloaded to your phone, simply connect it to your car and tap the Arrow icon on your car’s display, then follow the instructions to get started.

Once synced, the navigation bar makes sit easy to control your apps with a few taps. Whether you’re about to turn right while listening to music, or if you’re on a call and the route changes, you’ll always see what you need next.

What can you do with Android Auto?

Android Auto lets you keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. All you need to say is “Hey Google” to ask for routes, play your favorite songs or check the weather. The features can be categorized into navigation, communication, and entertainment.

You can get real-time alerts for navigation with Google Maps, Waze, and other mapping apps. Google Assistant can even find gas stations along the way, look for EV charging availability or book a parking reservation for when you arrive. You can see it all on your car’s dashboard display, helping you navigate with turn-by-turn directions.

Android Auto in Volkswagen ID.4 Center Console Interaction with Drivers Console
C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

Communication is made easy and safe. If you receive a text, Google assistant can read it to you aloud, and you can write back by talking. Driving becomes far less distracting when you can make calls or engage chat apps with just your voice. You can also see what’s happening today across your calendars and tap any event to make a call or start navigating to your appointments.

Of course, there’s also plenty of entertainment to enjoy the ride. The app lets you take all the media on your phone on the road and control it with your voice. Switch between audiobooks, podcasts, or road-trip playlists from your favorite apps quickly by asking.

Does my car support Android Auto?

Most vehicle models made after 2016 will support Android Auto, but check your car model to ensure that your vehicle is compatible.

Here’s a list of models from manufacturers that have confirmed wireless support:

  • Acura 2022 models MDX, RDX
  • Audi: 2022 models A3, A4, A5, A6, A7, A8, E-Tron, E-Tron GT, Q3, Q5, Q7, Q8 (2022 models)
  • BMW: 2022 models 2 Series, 3 Series, 4 Series, 5 Series, 7 Series, 8 Series, iX, i4, X3, X4, X5, X6, X7, Z4 2021 models 4 Series 2020 1 Series, 2 Series, 5 Series, 6 Series, 7 Series, XE, X4, X6 2019 3 Series, 8 Series, X5, X7, Z4
  • Buick: 2022 models Enclave, Encore GX, Envision
  • Cadillac: 2022 models CT4, CT5, Escalade/Escalade ESV, XT4, XT5, XT6
  • Chevrolet: 2022 models Blazer, Bolt EV, Bolt EUV, Camaro, Corvette, Equinox, Malibu, Silverado 1500, Silverado 1500 LTD, Silverado 2500/3500, Suburban/Tahoe, Trailblazer, Traverse
  • Chrysler: 2022 models Pacifica
  • Dodge: 2022 models Durango
  • Ford: 2022 models Bronco, Edge, E-Transit, Expedition/Expedition Max, F-150, F-150 Lightning, Mustang Mach-E
  • GMC: 2022 models Acadia, Hummer EV, Sierra 1500, Sierra 1500 LTD, Terrain, Yukon/Yukon XL
  • Honda: 2022 models Accord, Civic
  • Hyundai: 2022 models Accent, Elantra, Ioniq (excludes Ioniq 5), Kona, Kona EV, Palisade, Santa Cruz, Santa Fe, Sonata, Tucson, Venue
  • Infiniti: 2022 models Q50, Q60, QX50, QX55, QX60, QX80
  • Jeep: 2022 models Compass, Grand Cherokee/Grand Cherokee L, Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer
  • Kia: 2022 models Carnival, Forte, K5, Niro, Rio, Sorento 2021 models K5, Sorento, Seltos
  • Lincoln: 2022 models Navigator, Nautilus
  • Maserati: 2022 models Ghibli, Levante, MC20, Quattroporte
  • Mercedes-Benz 2022 models EQS, S Class Saloon 2021 models EQS
  • Porsche: 2022 models 911, Cayenne, Panamera, Taycan
  • Ram: 2022 models 1500, 2500/3500, ProMaster
  • Range Rover: 2022 models Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, Discovery, Defender
  • Toyota: 2022 models Tundra
  • Volkswagen: 2022 models Arteon, Atlas/Atlas Cross Sport, Golf GTI/Golf R, ID.4, Jetta, Taos, Tiguan 2021 models Arteon, Atlas/Atlas Cross Sport, Golf GTI/Golf R, ID.4, Jetta, Taos, Tiguan

If you are not driving any above cars, you could get the crowdfunded AAWireless dongle to use Android Auto untethered.

What is Android Automotive, and how does it differ from Android Auto?

Android Automotive in a Polestar 2
Polestar

In contrast to Android Auto, Android Automotive (AAOS) is a complete operating system running on the vehicle’s device, not relying on a smartphone to operate. We know the terminology can be confusing, so here’s how they differ:

  • Android Auto is a platform running on the user’s phone, projecting Android apps designed for in-vehicle use. to a compatible in-vehicle infotainment system over a USB connection.
  • Android Automotive is an open-source operating system running directly on in-vehicle hardware. The platform allows companies to customize the infotainment experience without using Google Automotive Services, such as Google Maps to Google Assistant.

Companies now using AAOS include Volvo, Ford, GM, Lucid Air, Honda, and BMW.


Read more: Android Auto problems and how to fix them

FAQs

Certain Android devices and car models are compatible with wireless connectivity. See this section to find out if your car supports wireless Android Auto.

Android Auto is compatible with the following Toyota vehicles.

  • 4Runner 2020 and above.
  • Aygo 2018 and above.
  • Sequoia 2020 and above.
  • Tacoma 2020 and above.
  • Tundra 2020 and above.
  • Yaris (Europe only) 2019 and above.

Download the app to your Android device and plug it into your car with a USB cable to get started.

If you are having issues connecting the mobile app to your car, see our article on the most common Android Auto problems and how to fix them.

Google has discontinued the Android Auto app for smartphones, making the app only available to use on car screens. You will still need your phone to connect to your car, but the app won’t work on your phone without a car any longer.