It’s an all-too-common scenario. You’re driving and get a text from a friend. They say you should meet at [insert bar/restaurant/S&M club here]. If you’re a responsible adult you pull over, open the maps app, search for the location, tap it, select navigate, and then get back on the road. But what if all that could be done with a tap or two? Or even better, a voice command?

Google showed off the latest incarnation of Google Now at its big developers conference in San Francisco and one particular feature coming to the next iteration of Android is going to be perfect for drivers. Except Google doesn’t know it yet.

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Google Now, if you’re not familiar, is Android’s contextually aware (and occasionally creepy) way of surfacing information at the best time. Launch Now and it will show your next appointments, how long it will take to get to the coffee shop you go to every morning, and other information it pulls from your calendar, email, location, and whatever data you’re willing to pour into Google’s servers.

If you go all-in with Google Now, it’s like an ambient assistant; something that knows you and works in the background to provide the information you need when you need it.

At I/O, Google showed off an updated version called Now On Tap, which works in the background, scanning the text in your current app and providing a way to act on certain items.

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So let’s get back to that text from your friend. He says, “Let’s meet at 21st Amendment.” And then follows up with, “Can you bring my book back, too?” Now On Tap scans that text and makes both of those messages actionable.

Long press on the home button and Google Now automatically recognizes “Meet at” and “21st Amendment” and then gives you options to navigate to the brewery, call it, view the Yelp reviews, or make reservations through OpenTable. But it also recognizes “bring my book back” and automatically gives you the option to set a reminder.

Using this kind of contextual information is helpful on your phone, but it could be even more beneficial while you’re behind the wheel.

Google Now is the template for Google’s in-car infotainment system, Android Auto. It looks the same, works the same, and is focused on providing just the necessary information to keep distractions to a minimum. If Google implements a version of Now On Tap in the car, when you get that same message from your friend, it’s easy to imagine the text being read aloud and followed by “Do you want to navigate to 21st Amendment?”

Google’s not there yet, but limiting distraction through contextual information and voice commands is out there. Now Google just needs to bring it to cars.


Contact the author at damon@jalopnik.com.
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