It’s no secret that for Google, this year’s CES is all about the Google Assistant. One Google product where the Assistant hasn’t really made any inroads yet, though, is Android Auto. Starting this week, though, Android Auto users in the U.S. will also get full support for the Assistant in their cars.
Now you may think that the Assistant was already available in Android Auto, given that the service always responded to voice requests. But for the most part, that was still the old Google Now-style assistant, not the newer Google Assistant (yeah, I know, this is confusing). Maybe the biggest difference here is that you will be able to access all of your third-party Google Assistant services and control your smart home devices from your car now, too.
How do you know if you’ve been upgraded? If you still see the four moving bars when the voice search starts, then you’re still on the old system. After the upgrade, these will change to the Assistant logo with its circles.
Looking ahead, Google will also enable Assistant-based drink orders from Starbucks and parking space reservations through SpotHero.
All of this will, of course, also be available in the Android Auto app, which works even if you don’t have an Android Auto-enabled car. As Google told me ahead of today’s announcement, the company also spent a bit of extra time to optimize the Assistant for Android Auto for the in-car experience.
Google has a bit more up its sleeve here, though. It’s also working with car manufacturers to build the Assistant right into their cars without the need for a phone. In addition, Google is also now working with Kia and Fiat Chrysler to give the Assistant access to their cars fuel levels and to allow users to lock their cars with their voice, for example. That’s something a lot of manufacturers currently charge for, so it’s interesting to see them working with Google on this. These kind of features were already available on a number of Mercedes Benz and Hyundai cars.