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Google Premieres Android Auto, Putting Your Android Phone in the Car

Alyssa Bereznak
National Correspondent, Technology
June 25, 2014

At its annual I/O developers conference Wednesday, Google announced the release of a new car-based operating system that lets you connect your Android phone to your automobile’s infotainment system. The new driving assistant, dubbed Android Auto, will allow you to dictate directions, music, or communications without removing your hands from the steering wheel or your eyes from the road. 

Google’s Android Auto follows the announcement of similar systems from Apple (CarPlay) and Microsoft (Windows in the Car) that will sync their own operating systems to infotainment systems. Those three major software and hardware makers are all simultaneously moving to attract users on as many screens as possible –– smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, TVs, and now automobiles.

Android Auto works quite simply, as long as all the right components are in place. You simply plug your Android phone into an enabled car (more than 40 auto manufacturers will be partnering with Google). Once the operating system shows up on your car’s control panel screen, you can set it down and start driving. From there, you can control the system by speaking aloud, or navigate the screen by touching it or using your steering wheel’s buttons.

The main functions of Android Auto are based on three of the most common things you need to do while driving: navigation, communication, and — of course — listening to music.

The program’s navigation features are backed up by the robust and reliable Google Maps, which offers verbal turn-by-turn directions (including what lane you need to be in).

But unlike your typical GPS helper, you can also ask the navigation system basic things about locations you’re interested in. Let’s say it’s 9 p.m. and you have a hankering for an Italian sub from your favorite sandwich place. You can simply ask, “How late is Ikes open?” The computer will respond with the establishment’s hours. If you’re not sure how to get there from where you are, you can simply say “navigate there.” It will quickly generate directions and begin dictating the next turn you should take.

Then there’s text messaging. If you’re following the directions to the sandwich place and your friend texts you, the message will display as a heads-up notification in the upper-right corner of your car screen. You can still see the map. And you don’t have to tap the screen to reply (because that would be dangerous, wouldn’t it?). Instead, you can dictate your message. The screen will momentarily preview the text of what you’ve said, and as soon as you approve it verbally, you’re right back to your navigation to the sandwich place.

Finally, music offers the same responsive voice-enabled commands and steering wheel controls as the other features. But you’ll have to be an avid Google Play user to really reap the benefits. Android Auto syncs with your Google Play library and playlists so you can access your music. 

The car manufacturers that will integrate Android Auto compatibility into their new models. (Yahoo Tech)

The Android Auto experience will be available when Google’s corresponding mobile operating system, “Android L,” is released later this year. And “the first cars with Android Auto will be rolling off dealer lots this year,” according to Google.

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