In-Pocket Technology Becomes In-Car Technology

2015-hyundai-genesis-12Consumers sometimes bemoan the bells and whistles that inhabit new cars, but when you really think about it, it’s a wonder our cars aren’t more feature packed. Technology has been improved and refined at such a dramatic rate over the past decade that the complicated interface in modern center consoles looks light years behind the interface most of us carry around in our pockets to make phone calls.

Enter Android Auto, a smartphone projection interface that integrates the Android smartphone operating system into your car’s infotainment screen. If this sounds like even more buttons and apps to distract drivers, fear not: only Google approved apps with driver-safety measures in place can be ported to the center console.

We’ve been reading about Android Auto for months, but we got to put it to work for the first time last week, when we test drove the 2017 Ford Escape. We had high hopes for Google’s first dip into automotive waters, and while we left our test drive feeling we had barely scratched this new software’s surface, we were not disappointed.

The major headline with Android Auto is the fact that once you replace normal in-car navigation with Google Maps, you will never want to go back. How did the industry standard for navigation take so long to find its way into the vehicles we need navigation to use? It’s hard to say, but one thing is for sure: this feature alone will lure people to cars with Android Auto.

Android Auto makes use of Android’s card-based menu, which means that your daily routine, Google calendar, and recent searches all help your car make suggestions. This might sound a little intrusive, but it’s hard for us to say the same, as we found the system to both be helpful and surprisingly accurate.

Plus, there are the Google user perks. Google Play music, for example, is a fine improvement over most radio services, and Google’s weather app is intuitive and accurate.

We have a lot more digging to do with Android Auto, but it’s very nice to see in-car technology starting to take some of the steps our in-pocket technology took years ago.