For all the complaints about how complicated new cars are, phone projection software is an objective win for modern vehicles. Plug in your handset and Android Auto or CarPlay is right there on your infotainment screen, feeding you directions and media controls without forcing you to use an annoying mount or cradle the phone between your thighs. But not everyone has or wants a new car, so it’d be great if the experience of using your phone while driving sucked less, too. A new update to Android aims to achieve exactly that.
In 2020 Google rolled out the Assistant Driving Mode, which was essentially a home screen replacement when you’re on the road. That feature is getting an overhaul in the next few weeks that will ideally make it easier to navigate and more glanceable. Here’s how the Assistant Driving Mode used to look:
And here’s how it’ll look now:
The map is now up top, front and center, which is exactly where it should be. The buttons to make calls and send texts are larger. And media is given more priority, with play/pause/skip buttons for relevant apps. Like before, you access this interface by saying “Hey Google, let’s drive.” That’s easy enough, though I wouldn’t mind a home screen shortcut like Android Auto used to have on phones way back when, to skip the chatter. That’s something users should be able to set up via an automated Assistant Routine anyway.
Additionally, Google has embedded the ability to pay for gas through the Assistant via your phone, Android Auto and newer cars with infotainment systems built on the Android Automotive platform, like those from Polestar, Stellantis and, soon, Honda. Here’s how that process works:
Another new feature for Android Auto users is the ability to set an app to automatically launch when you connect your phone to your car. As an iPhone user, this is something I’d love to see Apple copy so I don’t have to thumb through screens to get to Spotify, which is pretty much how every journey in my car starts anyway.
None of these updates are earth shattering, though they should make interacting with your phone if you have an older car less distracting, which is something companies in Google’s position should be continually striving to do.