What Is Android Auto?

American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Android Auto was designed by Google as a new safety feature for drivers. It allows you to use your compatible Android smartphone’s interface through the vehicle’s infotainment screen. The information from your phone is displayed on the vehicle’s screen, organized in Google-now style cards that pop up when needed. Google’s predictive technology offers these cards based on your daily routine, even suggesting where you may want to go.

In order to launch Android Auto you will need a smartphone running 5.0 Lollipop or higher. Connecting your phone to the vehicle, via a micro USB to USB cable, automatically puts Android Auto in control instead of the car’s existing on-board system. You can make calls, send and receive text messages, and use Google Play music and Google Maps, all through Android Auto’s best-in-class speech recognition technology.

Android Auto can also be controlled using the car’s touchscreen. Some of the steering wheel controls, buttons, and knobs will also control Android Auto, while others will remain in control of the vehicle’s internal systems.

American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Android Auto can be used by following three Simple Steps:

  • Plug your compatible Android smartphone into the vehicle’s USB cable port (cellular service is needed to power Android Auto)
  • Make sure your car is running, or accessories are on
  • Click AGREE on your phone when asked if you want to enable the Android Auto feature
  • Once your phone is connected, it will automatically pair with the infotainment system and Bluetooth. Hands-free phone calls are handled by Bluetooth. While streaming audio is sent through USB, to maintain lossless sound quality.  While connected to the vehicle’s system, the smartphone is not functional— everything is controlled via the car’s touchscreen, physical buttons, Bluetooth, and voice. On the screen, Google’s universal card-based design language keeps all of your notifications and important information organized and safely accessible.

    Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

    Google also allows you to use third-party apps that the company has approved as safe-to-use while driving. The list of approved apps in the Google Play store is lengthy and growing. Unlike Apple CarPlay, Android Auto allows the use of third-party texting apps and treats them the same as your smartphone’s built-in messaging interface. Some compatible apps include Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, Skype, Kik, Hangouts, WhatsApp, Podcast Player, and Amazon Music.

    Most automakers support Android Auto or plan to support it in upcoming models. Android Auto’s website lists the compatible automakers and models, as well as details about those that are coming soon. Some automakers are offering software upgrades to add Android Auto to vehicle’s that weren’t initially shipped with the feature.

    Aftermarket stereo manufacturers including JBL, Kenwood, Pioneer, and JVC offer Android Auto compatible audio systems that can be installed in most vehicles. However, Google is working on an update that will allow you to use Android Auto through the phone’s interface so that you don’t need to be driving a compatible vehicle to benefit from the app. Obviously the phone screen is smaller and dealing with the phone is less convenient, but all the voice controls and driving-related experiences will function the same as they would through the car’s infotainment system.