With the increasing number of car crash incidents caused due to the usage of mobile devices while driving, the software manufacturers for these phones came up with a method to increase connectivity and productivity, while maintaining the relative safety of people.
As a competition of Apple CarPlay, Google introduced Android Auto at Google I/O 2014.
Google recently announced that it is expanding this service to 18 other countries, including India.
But what is Android Auto?
Android Auto is Google’s solution for bringing the power of your smartphone to the relatively dumb nature of vehicle infotainment.
Android Auto works by projecting a customized version of a compatible Android smartphone onto the in-car display after the phone has been plugged to the car via USB. Phone calls are handled over Bluetooth. This has opened up the possibility to use mobile apps behind the wheel such as Google Maps, Google Play Music, Google Now and other third-party offerings (with modified/simplified interfaces for the car), such as Spotify, Kik and Skype.
The interface is very simple and is generally a few taps or swipes – or even completely voice controlled – while driving.
The software is based upon the popular Android 5.0 Lollipop, with the same Material Design as followed throughout its ecosystem.
So what do you need to use Android Auto?
Android Auto requires a smartphone running Android 5.0 or up, with the Android Auto app installed (available on the Play Store for free) and a compatible car.
Currently, Audi, Chevrolet, Honda, Hyundai, Mahindra and Skoda have released, or at least announced the launch of compatible cars in India in the near future. Several aftermarket car audio systems have been released that include Android Auto, including Pioneer and Kenwood.
But do we really need it?
The question that must be answered is if Android Auto and Apple CarPlay offer useful features or whether they are just needless distraction that they intended to eradicate in the first place?
For example, do you really need something built into the car console to show you the maps? The current smartphone holders are right in front of our line of sight, where the phone displays GPS navigation. Does it make sense to display the next turn at the console, affecting the attention given to the road?
So far, the integrated solutions are placed in the middle of the console, and require you to take your eyes off the road. The voice-based commands are helpful in places like the United States, but they often make mistakes with the different accented Indian English, hence making several uncomfortable and the function, harder to use.
Sure, these services provide quick access to features like music playing and answering calls, but is this feature developed enough to be helpful to the general public yet?