Taking a spin within the first automotive with Android Auto
Prepare for Android Auto to hit the plenty. Till now, the one method to get the Google-powered automotive interface was to put in an aftermarket unit from Pioneer, and even these have solely been round since March (Parrot can also be citing help for Android Auto in its head models, however its availability has not been introduced). However that modifications immediately, as Android Auto is now lastly out there in precise automobiles which you could purchase. That’s, if you wish to purchase a Hyundai. The Korean automaker is the primary automotive firm to have Android Auto built-in in its manufacturing automobiles, beginning with the 2015 Sonata with Navigation fashions. I lately spent every week with a 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T, and whereas I feel Android Auto nonetheless has some rising as much as do, I used to be general very happy.
First, a quick primer on Android Auto. It is primarily a driver-pleasant Android interface on your automotive. “We lock out the telephone to make you take a look at the automotive display. It is quite a bit safer,” says Andrew Brenner, the lead product supervisor for Android Auto. Brenner can also be the primary individual Google employed to steer the venture two years in the past. “The very first thing we did [when we started the project] was to place cameras within the automobiles of Googlers and observe them,” says Brenner. “What we noticed shocked us and made us slightly scared!” The group discovered that analysis individuals often used their telephones whereas driving, which Brenner says is sadly not unusual. Based on a research by the Nationwide Freeway Visitors Security Administration, roughly 660,000 drivers are “utilizing cellphones or manipulating digital units whereas driving,” and apparently that quantity hasn’t modified a lot since 2010.
Individuals do not simply use their telephones for navigation both. Google discovered that drivers regularly used their units for calls, messages, music and even issues they actually should not be doing, like studying tweets. “Our digital life is so essential today. … Individuals do not need to depart their connectivity and hyperlink to the surface world once they get within the automotive,” explains Brenner. It turned instantly apparent that distracted driving was the primary factor that Brenner and his group wanted to unravel. They began working with auto producers — Hyundai being certainly one of them — to develop an ecosystem that may permit an Android telephone to combine with the automotive’s present controls. With some automobiles, you may navigate the interface with knobs and buttons, whereas on others, you simply use the touchscreen.
The Sonata I examined falls into the latter class, with a touchscreen dominating the middle console. It comes with Hyundai’s personal navigation and leisure interface, with SiriusXM, its personal GPS navigation system and an SD card preloaded with maps. However in the event you needed to make use of Android Auto as an alternative, now you’ll be able to. Do notice, nevertheless, that Android Auto solely works with a Lollipop-powered Android telephone (that is Android 5.zero and up). Fortuitously, I occurred to have a HTC One M9 available that meets that requirement.
I plugged the telephone into the automotive’s middle console by way of a USB cable, which then prompted it to obtain and set up the Android Auto app. After I did that, I observed a brand new “Android Auto” button seem on the display. I tapped it and voila — that Hyundai interface was gone. As a substitute was the Android Auto interface, which is a lot cleaner and tidier than Hyundai’s personal cluttered UI that I could not assist however smile once I first noticed it. Apparently, nevertheless, it wasn’t an entire takeover. For instance, I might nonetheless hear SiriusXM whereas I used to be twiddling with the Android Auto interface and equally, I might hold streaming Google Play Music whereas over on the Hyundai aspect.
Now, the Android Auto interface is not a precise duplicate of your telephone — you will not see all of your apps on right here. That is as a result of it is meant to floor apps and options which are related if you’re on the street. The very first thing that you simply see if you launch Android Auto, for starters, is an summary display that is primarily a automotive-pleasant model of Google Now. “It filters by way of solely the playing cards which might be related when driving,” says Brenner. In my case, I typically noticed the at present enjoying monitor, just lately missed calls, the native climate and instructions to both go house or to the workplace. It additionally confirmed me instructions to places of upcoming appointments. I had booked a ticket to an area manufacturing of Ebook of Mormon, for instance, and Android Auto instinctively knew to supply me instructions to the theater. Creepy, however helpful.
Alongside the underside of the display is a common nav bar that results in maps and navigation, the telephone dialer, music apps and an app tray. In Hyundai’s case, the latter merely leads again to the default automotive menu. Apart from these options, Android Auto additionally helps primary Google voice actions. So, for instance, you possibly can say issues like, “What’s my subsequent appointment?” or, “What is the climate at this time?” and Android Auto will reply with the suitable solutions identical to your telephone would.
Certainly, Android Auto could be very voice-pushed. Within the case of the Sonata, I pressed and held down the voice-command button on the steering wheel to activate the microphone (although merely tapping the microphone on the display would work too). From there you’ll be able to say all types of instructions, like “How did the Warriors do final night time?” and, “Discover me some espresso.” Within the first case, you will hear a voice telling you the scores, whereas the latter command will deliver up an inventory of close by espresso outlets. Faucet a spot you need to go to, and Android Auto will navigate you there.
In my expertise, voice controls labored nice. In contrast to a variety of automotive methods the place you need to undergo a tree of instructions to do something, I might simply converse naturally. In my very own 2012 Ford Focus, for instance, I’ve to say, “Vacation spot, Road Tackle,” earlier than detailing precisely the place I need to go. With Android Auto, I might simply say, “Take me to In-N-Out,” and it will simply present me the best way to the closest In-N-Out. I might additionally say instructions like, “Name Roberto,” or, “Textual content Michael,” for calls and textual content messages and “Play [insert name of artist or song]” for music. In reality, I may even specify the precise app. With music, for instance, the default is Google Play Music, however Android Auto works with different music providers like Spotify, TuneIn and iHeartRadio. So I might say, “Play Vampire Weekend on Spotify,” and it will know to modify over to the totally different app to play the track.
The look of Android Auto can also be designed to be very automotive-pleasant. The fonts are good and large and the UI is supposed to be straightforward to navigate. Google Maps on Android Auto, for instance, has fewer location labels than its cellular counterpart. Once I get an incoming textual content message, I see a notification pop up on the display displaying who despatched it, however not the precise message itself. As an alternative, I’ve to press the voice button to immediate Android Auto to learn it to me. The menu system of every app can also be simplified and standardized, whereas sustaining a number of particular person traits. So, as an example, each Google Play Music and Spotify have the identical play/pause and monitor controls, however the former is orange whereas the latter is inexperienced. The apps even have totally different menu choices relying on their options.
That is to not say I did not encounter a couple of bugs. Every time I requested Android Auto to play a music, it struggled to point out me the related monitor info on the display — it will present “Getting your choice” as an alternative of the identify of the track. Moreover, the present Android Auto app library continues to be comparatively small. Whereas I respect that it helps WhatsApp and Skype as alternate messaging providers, I want that it might additionally help Twitter DM and Google’s personal Hangouts, the 2 apps that I exploit probably the most. The identical goes for music — I want it supported Rdio and SoundCloud as nicely. Nonetheless, these are principally teething issues, and I think Android Auto’s efficiency and app library will enhance over time.
So for those who’re Hyundai, why would you agree to supply Android Auto in the event you’ve already invested money and time in your personal in-automotive answer? Cason Grover, Hyundai’s senior group supervisor for Cross-Carline Planning, says it is all about freedom of selection. “Proper now if you’d like onboard maps, you need to use this SD card. … That is good know-how proper now, however over time, mapping will grow to be increasingly offboard,” he says, pointing to Google’s capability to have actual-time visitors information. However relating to driving in areas the place you won’t get nice knowledge reception, automotive GPS will nonetheless be helpful. Brenner says that Android Auto additionally is not meant to take over your automotive’s inner system like heating and seat suspension.
However it’s clear that carmakers like Hyundai see the good thing about partnering up with the likes of Google and Apple — Hyundai’s 2015 Sonatas with Navigation will even be suitable with Apple CarPlay down the street — if solely to make their automobiles extra interesting to smartphone-savvy shoppers. “We have discovered shortly that to supply every thing that everyone needs shouldn’t be possible, extra so with apps on the telephone,” says Grover. “Google works with these builders, and people apps work with each Android Auto telephone. All we’ve to do is figure with Google to combine it with the automotive.”
To drive house the purpose, Hyundai can also be planning on rolling out automobiles with a brand new head unit referred to as Show Audio. It has a middle console touchscreen just like the Navigation fashions besides that it will not include embedded maps — you will have to provide your personal. Not solely does this make the automobiles much more reasonably priced to the typical shopper, but in addition it is when third-get together options like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay actually come into their very own.
“Proper now solely lower than half of all Sonatas have help for Android Auto,” says Grover, explaining that is as a result of the Navigation fashions are mid- to excessive-degree choices. However as soon as Hyundai rolls out these automobiles with Show Audio models, almost all of Hyundai’s fleet might be Android Auto-prepared. “Android Auto is concentrated on making an attempt to have you ever use your telephone in a a lot safer means,” says Brenner. “We need to give individuals the related expertise that they crave.”
Should you’re able to take the Android Auto plunge now, nevertheless, nicely you’ll be able to all the time head on over to your closest Hyundai dealership to take a look at the brand new Sonatas with Navigation. In the event you’re already a present proprietor of a 2015 Sonata with Navigation, you’ll take your automotive right down to a supplier the place you possibly can replace your automotive’s software program with Android Auto. You might additionally add an aftermarket unit from the likes of Pioneer or Parrot should you’d moderately not hand over your present automotive. And, in fact, you would additionally simply watch for extra automakers like Honda, Ford and Audi to roll out their very own Android Auto-suitable automobiles later this yr.