Android Auto

New Android Auto Upgrades Google Assistant With Suggestions, Shortcuts, WhatsApp Phone Calls

Google has released a new version of Android Auto with a new look and features, including Google Assistant enhancements following the retirement of Assistant Driving Mode in October. The voice assistant will offer suggestions and reminders for sending travel updates and returning calls, shortcuts for environmental and entertainment control, and the ability to make phone calls through WhatsApp using Android Auto. The company also revealed more cars that will hit the road with Goole built-in.

Android Auto Assistance

Android Auto now appears as a split-screen with the most commonly accesses information on the main screen instead of requiring tapping on menu items. Maps and music are visible simultaneously, and the setup adapts to different screen sizes and shapes. The audio content will display a progress bar for the first time to make skipping around a track easier. The simplified interface is accompanied by a more proactive and streamlined Google Assistant.

Context guides the voice assistant’s suggestions, such as offering to play their favorite music or sending smart replies like the estimated time of arrival to a spouse when the driver asks for directions home. There are also shortcuts on the screen for music and communication, including Android Auto’s first WhatsApp calls, though only on the latest Pixel and Samsung phones for now. Google previewed some of the new aspects of Android Auto at Google I/O last year.

“The new design prioritizes three important goals for drivers: navigating where you’re going, communicating with friends and family, and playing your music or podcasts,” Android for cars product and user experience director Guemmy Kim explained in a blog post. “In addition to the new design, it is now easier than ever to complete some of your most frequent needs in the car. Google Assistant now provides smart suggestions including missed call reminders, quick arrival time sharing and instant access to music or podcasts. On-screen shortcuts speed up message replies  and calling favorite contacts.”

Built-In AI

Google claims more than 150 million cars use Android Auto, but the number of cars with Google built-in is set to skyrocket. Those vehicles will also get upgraded and extended. The Waze app is beginning to roll out to Google built-in cars, starting with some Renault vehicles. Meanwhile, a couple of Volvo models are first in line to offer Google’s new high-definition map of detailed road information like road barriers and lane markers, boons to semi-autonomous driving.

“Cars with Google built-in bring Google Assistant, Google Maps, and more apps from Google Play directly to the car screen without relying on a phone, so drivers can just get in and go. We partner closely with carmakers and app developers to continuously enhance this integrated experience,” Kim wrote. “With the recently announced 2023 Accord Touring model, Honda joins a growing list of brands offering cars with Google built-in that includes Volvo Cars, Polestar, Chevrolet, GMC, Cadillac and Renault. Expect even more choices from brands like Ford and Lincoln later in 2023 as well.”

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