Google's new Android Auto is like Google Now for your car

The next Android L release hits the road with the announcement of the Android Auto interface for cars.

Antuan Goodwin Reviews Editor / Cars
Antuan Goodwin gained his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and electrification to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable.
Expertise Reviewing cars and car technology since 2008 focusing on electrification, driver assistance and infotainment Credentials
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Antuan Goodwin
2 min read

Watch this: Google gives first look at Android Auto

On Wednesday Google pulled the wraps off of Android Auto, the redesigned car-specific interface for Android, at the Google I/O developers conference in San Francisco.

Android Auto is contextually aware, so it knows when you're in the car and presents a simplified version of the new Android L release interface that is meant to reduce distraction. Android Auto runs on the mobile device, but mirrors its interface onto a touchscreen in the vehicle's dashboard. The user can then interact with Android using the touchscreen or voice command.

If Android Auto's card-based interface looks familiar, it's because the technology is sort of like Google Now for the car. When Android Auto connects to your car's display, it will automatically show information relevant to your driving habits based on information Google and Google Now already know about you. So if it's 5 p.m., it could start up already showing a shortcut for your commute home with a travel time estimate. Just tap and go.

Along the bottom of the screen are shortcuts to jump between navigation, phone, music, etc.

Android Auto's card-based interface is similar to the Google Now interface on the handset and is just as contextually aware. Screenshot by Wayne Cunningham/CNET

You'll also be able to tap a steering wheel or onscreen button and speak commands to Android Auto to access Google Maps Navigation, destination and contact search, and to access messaging and telephony. The driver can also speak and reply to incoming text and email messages using Google's voice input and text-to-speech systems. The familiar commands should be recognizable from Google Now on the phone.

The driver can, for example, tap a button on a steering wheel to bring up the Google Voice Search prompt and ask Android Auto to navigate to the nearest coffee shop to quickly search and go. Likewise, you can say, "Listen to Coolio" to pull up the artist's music in the Google Play Music app and play it through your car's speakers.

Google has over 40 partners lined up to support Android Auto. Screenshot by Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Because Google's Android Auto lives on the phone, it updates whenever the apps stored on the phone do and should benefit from the search updates to the Android L release previewed at Google I/O. It's possible for third parties to hook into the Android Auto SDK and be quickly accessed via the interface's voice commands. So if you prefer, say, Spotify to Google Play Music, app developers could update the app and interface for seamless integration.

Google stated that it has 40 automakers and suppliers partnered up as part of the Open Automotive Alliance and standing behind Android Auto. The Android Auto SDK will be made available to developers "soon" and will reach the public later this year as part of the upcoming Android L release.

This is a developing story. Follow all of CNET's Google I/O news for more announcements.