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Google rolls out big updates to Android Auto

Google Assistant's driving mode also gets enhanced functionality and the company announced Android Automotive will soon be coming to Honda vehicles.

Google is updating both Android Auto and Google Assistant driving mode to make them safer and more convenient.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Android Auto has been around since 2015 and since its inception it's gotten progressively more functional and aesthetically pleasing. According to a blog post published on Thursday by Google outlining the future of its automotive products, that trend looks to continue.

The changes to Android Auto aren't groundbreaking, but they should make for a much more elegant, easy and safe way to mirror your phone to your vehicle. The most significant change comes in the form of a new and configurable launch screen that will show music, news and podcast recommendations. Users will also be able to set which app launches when Android Auto starts up. (Google did not provide images or video of the new system at the time of publication.) 

Taking a page out of Tesla's book, Android Auto will now allow users to play games via their vehicle's screen when parked. This feature will work with any phone running Android 9 or later. We don't know yet which games will work well on this setup, but we very much look forward to finding out.

The other big news is that Android Auto will now support dual-SIM users and allow you to select which SIM card you're using to make a call or send a message. Along similar lines, Android Auto will now allow you to choose either your personal profile or your work profile, so you can more easily handle business while you're motoring.

2022-polestar-2-ev-140

Polestar and Volvo are among the handful of manufacturers using Android Automotive OS, and Honda will soon be joining them.

Polestar

Android Auto isn't the only Google automotive product getting new functionality. Google Assistant's driving mode gets an overhaul, too, which should be a boon for people with older, screenless cars. Driving mode can now be enabled by using the voice command, "Hey, Google, let's drive." The driving mode also now has a different screen with large, tappable cards featuring your most-used-while-driving apps -- Maps, Audible, Spotify, etc.

Google also partnered with Exxon, Mobil, Conoco, Phillips 66 and 76 to enable Google Pay compatibility at over 32,000 gas stations across the US. This allows users to simply say, "Hey, Google, pay for gas," and presto-chango, you don't need to put a card into a pump or go into the cashier. Unfortunately, we still live in the present and not the future, so Google won't select a fuel grade or robotically pump your gas for you, ensuring that you should probably still keep some sanitizer handy for nasty post-pump hands.

The best part is that all this functionality should be available reasonably soon to Android users. Google estimates that it will be a few weeks, so keep an eye out for updates.

The last piece of news from Mountain View has to do with cars running Android Automotive OS. The Polestar 2 was the first vehicle to utilize the system, but Google has been hard at work partnering with other manufacturers like Nissan, Ford and GM for future iterations of their infotainment platforms, and now Honda is getting in on the fun. Google says that we can expect Honda infotainment powered by Android Automotive OS to come in the next few years.

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