Eyes On Road. Hands On Wheel. Drive Safe With Android Auto.

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Released on March 19 2015, Android Auto aims to minimise distraction while driving by extending functionality of your Android mobile device to your automobile’s dashboard unit. While Android Auto is voice-driven, it can also be operated via your car’s touchscreen display unit and with knobs and buttons that control your car’s display unit.Voice-based commands can be given by just pressing the voice control button on the steering wheel or tapping the microphone icon on the screen. Once microphone is activated, you can just give commands like “take me to the nearest ATM,” “call home,” or “read out latest text messages.”

Key functions in Android Auto include:

Navigation: Voice-guided navigation is available via Google Maps. You also get access to live traffic information, lane guidance, and more.

Music: You can play, pause and change track with just a voice command or touch on the car’s in-built dashboard. Besides Google Play Music, it supports third-party apps like Spotify and iHeartRadio.

Phone calls and SMS: You can just give a command to make a phone call, read out unread messages and write a message to a contact.

Reminders: You can set reminders like doctor’s appointment or important meetings.

Third-party apps access: Support for select third-party apps like Skype, Kik, WhatsApp, Threema, Pocket Casts, Talkray is also available.

To use Android Auto, you need to be using an Android phone running 5.0 (Lollipop) or higher, as well as an Android Auto compatible vehicle or aftermarket stereo. Per the website, Android Auto compatible vehicles and stereos are currently available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Setting up Android Auto is quite simple—you just need to plug your phone into the car’s dashboard via a USB cable, which will then prompt you to download and install the Android Auto app. As soon as the app is downloaded, you are good to go.

While Hyundai Sonata was the first car to feature Android Auto support, other manufacturers like Skoda and Honda have released select vehicles that are compatible with Android Auto. Some other manufacturers like Chevrolet, Volswagen, Volvo, GMC, and more are expected to launch vehicles with Android Auto in 2016. Pioneer Electronics is among the first to offer Android Auto compatible infotainment systems which can be fitted in your existing vehicles.

Hot or Not?

What’s Hot: Android Auto’s fonts are big and easy to read. Safety while driving is the focus. Thus, you will notice that all the apps on your phone are not available, only those that are relevant while driving are displayed. Voice system works well-you don’t need to give a chain of instructions, simple commands are well-understood. To ensure safe driving, your phone’s screen get locked as soon as you connect your phone with the dashboard. You can even specify the exact app, for example, “send text via WhatsApp,” play music with Spotify, and more. Stellar Point: Android Auto’s Google Now takes into account your reminders, emails and text messages to predict the destination you are most likely to go and shows the directions accordingly.  For example, if you have booked a particular movie show for a particular day and time, it automatically starts showing the directions around that time.

What’s Not: In areas with poor Internet connectivity, voice system responds sluggishly and navigation takes time to load. Android Auto can only be connected using a USB cable, as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are currently not supported. Third-party app library is quite limited, though it is expected to increase in the future. Per our ongoing conversations with users, 6 out of 10 reported facing problems while playing music on Spotify (although Google Play Music works fine) as sometimes it wouldn’t play the particular track or not play at all. You cannot use Android Auto’s voice command to control car’s temperature or select radio stations as it works only with apps on smartphone.

The Bottomline:

At Greyhound Research, we believe turn-by-turn voice navigation (Google Maps), predictive capabilities (Google Now), and smart voice recognition make Android Auto a good option to stay connected while concentrating on the road. That said, while many cars have shown interest in integrating Android Auto, some are still to announce an official release date. Although select models of few manufacturers are expected to support Android Auto in 2016, we need to wait and watch to see the actual number of cars supporting it.

Would you want to invest in a car infotainment system like this? Leave us a line (or two) to let us know.     

Picture Courtesy: Android.com/Auto

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About The Author: Sanchit Vir Gogia is the Chief Analyst & CEO of Greyhound Research, an independent IT & Telecom Research & Advisory firm. He also serves as Chief Futurist, Founder & CEO of Greyhound Knowledge Group that operates under four brands – Greyhound Research, Greyhound Sculpt, Greyhound Technocrat and Greyhound Vivo. To read more about him, click here.

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