As part of its I/O 2022 developers' conference, Google showcased the next iteration of its Android Auto app mirroring interface for cars rolling out this Summer. The refreshed interface now features a split screen layout that should make multitasking easier by reducing the number of times users will need to return to the home screen for simple tasks.
Android Auto was originally revealed at I/O 2014 before making its way into the first vehicles and aftermarket head units the following year. Today, Google says over 150 million cars globally, from nearly every major auto manufacturer, now have Android Auto connectivity; and every one of them -- from the oldest to the ones still rolling off assembly lines -- should benefit from today's announced updates.
The new Android Auto is scalable and able to adapt to standard, vertical and ultrawide configurations. Along the bottom edge -- or the left edge for ultrawide screens -- is a bar with shortcuts to the app launcher, notifications and Google Assistant on one end. On the other end you'll find status icons for signal strength, phone battery level and time . The main area of the display is now split into three sections with two tiles dedicated to displaying navigation and media controls -- the features Google thinks drivers prioritize when behind the wheel.
The contents of the third section will shift depending on the context: Sometimes, it's a simple clock. When starting a trip, estimated time to the destination may appear here with a link to share. When a message comes in, a preview will sit in this flexible space waiting for the user to interact or reply. Users will also now be able to quickly respond to those incoming messages with a single tap using Google Assistant AI-suggested quick replies -- like "OK" or "On my way" -- similar to those offered on Pixel devices. Of course, composing a custom reply via voice input is still on the menu.
Android Auto's new look and new functionalities should start rolling out this Summer.
Earlier this year, Android Auto rolled out a media recommendations shortcut powered by Google Assistant and today it announced new developer tools to help more apps hook into that feature. Developers will also gain access to new templates to customize how their apps display in the Android Auto interface and new tools to help users more efficiently interact with long form content, such as audiobooks and podcasts. Google will also continue to open up new app type categories, building on the CES 2022 announcement that ridesharing driver apps such as Lyft, along with electric vehicle charging apps and parking services, are coming to Android Auto.
More video apps coming to Android Automotive OS
Switching gears, Google also announced new features are coming to its baked in Android Automotive OS -- which runs natively on the vehicles' hardware rather than being streamed in from a host phone via USB or wireless connectivity -- found in vehicles like the Polestar 2, the Volvo C40 and XC40 Recharge and GMC's Hummer EV.
Google previously announced it was bringing YouTube to the dashboard later this year, allowing drivers to entertain themselves while parked and, for example, waiting for their EV to charge. At I/O 2022, Google says to expect more video-based apps like Tubi TV and Epix Now on the horizon, better browsing of video content and even cast support that would allow you to stream content from Chromecast-compatible mobile apps from your phone to the vehicle's larger screen.
Developers should also find it easier to develop for Android Automotive OS with new tools that help translate tablet-sized apps to parked car experiences and speed up the development and publishing of apps for both Android Automotive OS and Android Auto.