Kurt Verlin
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Major Android Auto Update Lets You Play Video Games in Your Car

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Wired Android Auto in a Chevrolet
Photo: Chevrolet

If you use Android Auto, you already know how the app lets you connect your Android phone to your car and use certain apps. Unfortunately, you probably also know that using the app while on the go can be challenging, though it has been continually been improved since its launch in 2015. A new upcoming update aims to make the app easier and safer to use than ever.

It brings several changes and enhancements to Android Auto, including the ability to play games directly from your infotainment screen, just like in a Tesla. Fear not, parents with teen drivers: it only works while parked. It’s meant to help you kill time while charging your car’s battery or waiting on a to-go order, not distract you while on the road.

Connected Services: Cool features that make your car work for you

The Android Auto update will also include a variety of interface enhancements, such as music, news, and podcast recommendations from Google Assistant, and the ability to select a default app whenever Android Auto is launched. Google is also excited about a new dashboard that will reduce “the need to fiddle with your phone while also making sure you stay focused on the road” thanks to “glanceable, tappable cards,” though the tech company did not provide any preview graphics.

Additionally, Android Auto’s voice features are getting an upgrade. For example, telling Google to turn on auto-read will enable the Google Assistant to read text messages out loud as they come in, and invite you to respond by voice. Currently, you’d need to take your eyes off the road and press buttons to view the text message.

The updated app will even allow Android users to make contactless payments at more than 32,500 gas stations across the United States by simply saying “Hey Google, pay for gas” (if you have Google Pay set up beforehand, that is).

Google says millions of people in over 12 countries use its Google Assistant driving mode every day, but the company’s endgame likely involves phasing out the Android Auto app in favor of having Google already built directly into the vehicle. Starting in 2022, this will be the case for a variety of models from Ford, General Motors, Chevrolet, Honda, Volvo, and other brands.

By having the Android Automotive operating system already built in, these models will be able to do more than is possible with just the Android Auto app, as Google will have access to otherwise unavailable vehicle functions. For example, you’ll be able to use it to control the air conditioning system, instrument cluster, and likely to perform the same kinds of remote commands as already possible via each brand’s proprietary smartphone app.

The only question remains is: what part of our life won’t Google oversee in the future?