Android Auto — the in-car platform that brings the look and functions of a smartphone to the vehicle’s central screen — is getting a new look and improved navigation and communication features that will roll out this summer.
The improvements and new look were revealed Monday during Google I/O 2019, the annual developer conference.
The most noticeable change might be the overall look of Android Auto. It now has a dark theme, new fonts and color accents designed to make it easier for drivers to quickly and more easily see the content on the car’s central screen.
The new version of Android Auto has also improved its notifications. Drivers can choose to view, listen and respond to messages and calls more easily.
Engineers have updated the software to make it more seamless. The system, if properly enabled, would pop up on the car’s screen once the vehicle was turned on. However, the user would still have to restart their media or navigation option. Now, Android Auto will continue playing the media and navigation app of the driver’s choice. Drivers can tap on a suggested location or say “Hey Google” to navigate to a new place.
The navigation bar on Android Auto has changed, as well. Drivers will be able to see their turn-by-turn directions and control apps and phone on the same screen.
Finally, the platform has been adjusted so it will fit various sized-screens. Android Auto now maximizes the in-car display to show more information, like next-turn directions, playback controls and ongoing calls.
Android Auto is not an operating system. It’s a secondary interface — or HMI layer — that sits on top of an operating system. Google released Android Auto in 2015. Rival Apple introduced its own in-car platform, Apple CarPlay, that same year.
Automakers that wanted to give consumers a better in-car experience without giving Google or Apple total access quickly adopted the platform. Even some holdouts, such as Toyota, have come around. Today, Android Auto is available in more than 500 car models from 50 different brands, according to Android Auto product manager Rod Lopez.
Google has since developed an operating system called Android Automotive OS that’s modeled after its open-source mobile operating system that runs on Linux. Instead of running smartphones and tablets, Google modified it so it could be used in cars. Polestar, Volvo’s standalone performance electric car brand, is going to produce a new vehicle, the Polestar 2, that has an infotainment system powered by Android Automotive OS.