google rolls out big updates to android auto

© Provided by Roadshow Google is updating both Android Auto and Google Assistant driving mode to make them safer and more convenient. Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Android Auto has been around since 2015 and since its inception it's gotten progressively more functional and aesthetically pleasing. According to a blog post published on Thursday by Google outlining the future of its automotive products, that trend looks to continue.

The changes to Android Auto aren't groundbreaking, but they should make for a much more elegant, easy and safe way to mirror your phone to your vehicle. The most significant change comes in the form of a new and configurable launch screen that will show music, news and podcast recommendations. Users will also be able to set which app launches when Android Auto starts up. (Google did not provide images or video of the new system at the time of publication.) 

Taking a page out of Tesla's book, Android Auto will now allow users to play games via their vehicle's screen when parked. This feature will work with any phone running Android 9 or later. We don't know yet which games will work well on this setup, but we very much look forward to finding out.

The other big news is that Android Auto will now support dual-SIM users and allow you to select which SIM card you're using to make a call or send a message. Along similar lines, Android Auto will now allow you to choose either your personal profile or your work profile, so you can more easily handle business while you're motoring.

google rolls out big updates to android auto

© Provided by Roadshow Polestar and Volvo are among the handful of manufacturers using Android Automotive OS, and Honda will soon be joining them. Polestar

Android Auto isn't the only Google automotive product getting new functionality. Google Assistant's driving mode gets an overhaul, too, which should be a boon for people with older, screenless cars. Driving mode can now be enabled by using the voice command, "Hey, Google, let's drive." The driving mode also now has a different screen with large, tappable cards featuring your most-used-while-driving apps -- Maps, Audible, Spotify, etc.

Google also partnered with Exxon, Mobil, Conoco, Phillips 66 and 76 to enable Google Pay compatibility at over 32,000 gas stations across the US. This allows users to simply say, "Hey, Google, pay for gas," and presto-chango, you don't need to put a card into a pump or go into the cashier. Unfortunately, we still live in the present and not the future, so Google won't select a fuel grade or robotically pump your gas for you, ensuring that you should probably still keep some sanitizer handy for nasty post-pump hands.

google rolls out big updates to android auto

© Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Google is updating both Android Auto and Google Assistant driving mode to make them safer and more convenient.

The best part is that all this functionality should be available reasonably soon to Android users. Google estimates that it will be a few weeks, so keep an eye out for updates.

The last piece of news from Mountain View has to do with cars running Android Automotive OS. The Polestar 2 was the first vehicle to utilize the system, but Google has been hard at work partnering with other manufacturers like Nissan , Ford and GM for future iterations of their infotainment platforms, and now Honda is getting in on the fun. Google says that we can expect Honda infotainment powered by Android Automotive OS to come in the next few years.

The new Android Auto is easier on the eyes and easier to use

google rolls out big updates to android auto

1/30 SLIDES © Provided by Roadshow Meet the new, redesigned Android Auto. This is the first major interface change since the software debuted in 2014.

google rolls out big updates to android auto

2/30 SLIDES © Provided by Roadshow Google Maps looks about the same, but the interface around it -- from the notifications to the menus -- has gotten the dark mode treatment.

google rolls out big updates to android auto

3/30 SLIDES © Provided by Roadshow A small change that makes a big difference is the new bottom bar, which now features a dynamic multitasking area.

google rolls out big updates to android auto

4/30 SLIDES © Provided by Roadshow Android Auto now features an app launcher that looks a lot like the app launcher on Google's Pixel phones.

google rolls out big updates to android auto

5/30 SLIDES © Provided by Roadshow You'll also find new Google Assistant shortcuts nestled among the apps.

google rolls out big updates to android auto

6/30 SLIDES © Provided by Roadshow The Now Playing screen now features timestamps and a darker scheme that's easier on the eyes at night.

google rolls out big updates to android auto

7/30 SLIDES © Provided by Roadshow You can now also see complete album art thanks to the thumbnail image next to the titles.

google rolls out big updates to android auto

8/30 SLIDES © Provided by Roadshow Status icons along the top edge have been pushed deeper into the corners, making room in the main area for content.

google rolls out big updates to android auto

9/30 SLIDES © Provided by Roadshow And in the bottom right corner are icons for notifications (the bell) and Google Assistant (the microphone).

google rolls out big updates to android auto

10/30 SLIDES © Provided by Roadshow Keep on clicking or scrolling for more screenshots and in-car photos, and check out our hands-on impressions to learn how the new Android Auto stacks up to the old familiar interface.

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This was originally published on Roadshow.

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