Google shared new information and a demonstration of their new Android Auto framework intended to bring the power of Android to motor vehicles. Besides putting Android, and by extension Google services, in front of even more people, the new Android Auto initiative is part of an effort to improve safety by making it easier for users to access information and services without resorting to looking at their smartphones.
For the demonstration, Google showed an auto interior where the user has connected their Android powered smartphone to an auto that has Android Auto loaded up. Once connected, users will be able to access all of the information on their smartphones via an in dash touchscreen. Even though the information is available, Google wanted to make sure it was easier for users to get to it. So modifications to the interface were made for a variety of apps. For example, Play Music has a simplified user interface that makes it easy to do things like selecting a track to play or loading up a playlist with a minimal level of attention, similar to current radios. The interface also makes heavy use of Google Now type contextual cards that can be touched or scrolled quickly and easily.
Another important part of the interface is the use of voice-activated controls. For this, Google demonstrated how voice commands alone could be used with Google Maps to launch a search for a destination, check out the hours, and start navigation. Once navigation starts, a “heads up” notification will pop up over the map to show driving directions which are also communicated via voice. In another example, text messages can be created, sent, received and read using voice controls alone.
To help developers get their apps deployed on Android Auto enabled vehicles, Google will be releasing the Android Auto SDK so features like the heads up notifications and voice-activated controls will be available. Already several developers like Pandora, TuneIn, Spotify, and Songza have had access to early versions of the SDK and have enabled their apps for Android Auto use. Google pointed out that the same code is used with Android Wear devices to accomplish similar functions, further streamlining development for multiple platforms.
Google indicated they have 40 new partners in the Open Automotive Alliance, including 25 different car brands. They anticipate vehicles with Android Auto will hit the market before the end of 2014.
Check back for more updates from Google I/O 2014.