Android Auto shifts gears
Android Auto may not get as much attention as Waymo, Google's more exciting and mysterious self-driving car technology, but it's chugging along. While no cool new features were unveiled at I/O-and quite frankly, we're still waiting for the Waze integration we were promised at last year's event-Google's clearly been busy putting Android Auto directly into cars, says Michael Simon of PC World.
Right before I/O, Google announced a partnership with Volvo and Audi to integrate Android Auto right into the navigation system, no phone required. I got to see the Volvo V90's Android-powered navigation system in action, and it's a big upgrade from the relatively small screens we use now.
The vertical-mounted giant display was similar to the Tesla's (though not quite as big). As soon as you turn the car on, it comes to life with four tabs to select from: Google Maps, the most recently used app, Phone, and Studio. At the bottom of the screen is a set of climate controls that let you adjust the temperature or turn on the heated sets, but you don't have to touch the screen to operate them. Just say, "OK, Google, turn up the air conditioning," and your car will start to get cooler.
The Volvo V90 features a giant display that lets you control things like climate and cruise control along with maps and music.
Google Maps doesn't require a phone to operate, but if you bring one along, all of your searches and trips will be synced. You'll also be able to make calls through your phone (iPhones too, of course). There's no dedicated messaging interface, however, you will be able to see and reply to notifications from your phone.
Available apps mirror those that work with Android Auto (which means there aren't too many available yet), but popular services like Spotify and Pandora are represented. When you're listening to music, you'll be able to adjust the sound using the Studio tab, which gives you a standard set of speaker controls, including a fader, and bass and treble. Swipe right and you'll see options for things like the backup camera, the car's fuel-saving ECO driving mode, and cruise control. There's a button on the steering wheel to bring up Assistant (or you can say "OK, Google"). Because the screen is resistive and not capacitive, it'll work when you're wearing gloves, too.