Google introduced Wednesday at its Google I/O 2023 event a number of new features and services designed for cars, including video conferencing, gaming and YouTube, as the tech company continues its drive further into the automotive world.
The company has been making inroads into automotive via two paths: Android Auto, an app that runs on the user’s phone and wirelessly communicates with and projects navigation, parking, media and messaging to the vehicle’s infotainment system, and Google built-in, which is powered by its Android Automotive operating system and integrates Google services directly into the vehicle. Android Automotive OS is modeled after its open-source mobile operating system that runs on Linux. But instead of running smartphones and tablets, Google modified it so automakers could use it in their cars.
Google’s aim is to power the whole connected car experience. And it’s having success.
Google has become so commonplace in vehicles that Android Auto is expected to be available in around 200 million vehicles by the end of the year, the company said at its annual developers event.
Google also said it expects the number of cars with Google built-in to double by the end of this year, including in brands like Chevrolet, Renault, Volvo, Polestar and Honda. (Google did not share how many vehicles have Google built-in today). This means that even more cars will be integrated directly with Google apps and services like Assistant, Maps and Play.
Here’s a roundup up what’s coming:
More ways to stream and game
Google announced Wednesday it will make YouTube available to all vehicles with Google-built in, starting with Polestar.
YouTube joins a list of other available video-streaming apps like Tubi and Epix Now.
In the coming weeks, Polestar vehicles will begin to display YouTube as an option for download and streaming on the car’s Google Play Store. Google says more car brands that have Google built-in will soon follow. OEMs just need to go through their respective software update processes to bring it to their cars, according to the company.
You might also recall that Mercedes struck a deal earlier this year with Google to bring YouTube and other apps to future vehicles.
Speaking of things to do while waiting for an EV to charge or parked curbside, now folks who own cars with Google built-in will also be able to play games from GameSnacks, a collection of bite-sized games like Solitaire, Beach Buggy Racing and My Talking Tom Friends from publishers like Vector Unit, FRVR and Outfit7 Limited.
GameSnacks is already available on Android Auto and nearly a million gamers per month are using it, the company said.
Get more done
Android Auto is working with Cisco, Microsoft Teams and Zoom to enable conferencing. That means that soon, users will be able to join a call directly from their car’s display. This feature will only allow users to join via audio — for now.
Cars with Google built-in will also soon have more integration with Google Assistant. Over the next few months, cars will start seeing smart suggestions for messaging, according to the company.
Leaning into crowdsourced navigation
Google bought Waze, the popular navigation app, back in 2013. Rather than folding Waze’s technology into Maps, Google has maintained the separate product, even when Google combined Waze and Maps teams last December amid pressure to cut costs.
In March, Waze launched the ability for users to find a charge point nearby via the mobile app. And because it’s Waze, the community of volunteers ensures that users have all the facts before driving over, like whether the charge points actually work or if it’s the right plug type.
On Wednesday, Waze announced plans to include users who drive with Waze in-car on Android Auto, Google built-in or Apple CarPlay. That means drivers will now be able to receive that information in their in-car display without having to use their mobile phone.
Adding onto Android for Cars App Library
In 2020, Google opened its Cars App Library for developers and OEMs to use so they could design, develop and test apps made for navigation, parking or charging that are compatible with two different, but sometimes overlapping platforms: Android OS and Android Auto. It also means developers can create one app that should work seamlessly between various makes and models of vehicles. The library has templates that developers can tap so they ensure their apps meet driver distraction standards.
Android for Cars App Library, which is available as part of Jetpack, was created to support the Android Automotive operating system which is powered by Android Automotive OS. Many third-party developers like Spotify have used the Android for Cars App Library to create and publish their Android Auto apps to the Play Store. When Google took the step in 2020 to extend Cars App to the operating system, it meant developers only needed to build once.
At Google I/O day, Google expanded the types of apps developers can bring to cars with Android Auto to include Internet of Things (IoT) and weather apps. All developers can access the IoT category, but weather is still in an early access program. As part of this, the Weather Channel app will be available later this year.
Additionally, developers interested in building apps for passenger and parked experiences can now bring video, game and browser apps that are usually available on tablets over to cars to be distributed directly via Play. And because Google Voice Assistant is built in, developers will have the option of adding Assistant integrations into their apps to facilitate more hands-free interactions.