Google is redesigning Android Auto’s interface to fit all sorts of touchscreens, regardless of their size and shape. Google says the redesign will come in an update this summer, and will increase Android Auto’s compatibility with different screen layouts by defaulting to a split-screen mode that puts all the important features in one place. Basically, it’s tiles, and now they move depending on the setup of the screen in your car.
Because even though car infotainment seems simple at a glance — it’s either a big or small rectangle, either laying down or standing up — touchscreens vary greatly across today’s vehicles. So getting an interface to work with all (or at least, most) of them requires a flexible approach. Especially now that screens are slowly replacing buttons and knobs for a lot of basic inputs.
Like it or not, touchscreens are taking over the dashboard. And many carmakers are going wide, like with the 56-inch MBUX Hyperscreen in the 2022 Mercedez-Benz EQS. That’s a whole lot of real estate for Siri or the Google Assistant! Hence the need for an adaptable interface.
In order to accommodate many infotainment layouts, Google asked carmakers for help. In an interview with the The Verge, Android Auto lead Rod Lopez said, “[O]ur approach has been working really closely with these OEMs to make sure that things make sense and they work.”
Presumably, that means the main infotainment features: navigation, media and communication. These functions, as Google calls them, should be clear and easy to operate in the car. But these often have to share screen space with vehicle-specific things like HVAC, and the layout of those items differs from car to car. By working with the automakers, Google was able to tailor Android Auto around those necessities, keeping things flexible.
Of course, one other feature/function that Google and Apple should keep an eye on is safety. That brings us back to to the Google Assistant, which is also being updated with features that are supposed to make smartphone integration safer.
Google says the Assistant will respond to voice commands like before, but will now make suggestions when replying via text or calling your favorite contacts. These contextual suggestions are supposed to cut down on the amount of time drivers spend poking at menus, reducing commands to a single tap in some cases.
I don’t know. I think safe smartphone integration is an oxymoron. Less smartphone integration is best, but I know. I know. Touchscreens won. They took over our phones, and now our cars. The best we can hope for is better interfaces with broad compatibility. This looks like it’s going in that direction.