It's been a year since the launch of the Open Automotive Alliance, which happened here in Las Vegas at CES 2014. Now, 12 months later, Android Auto is real. It's not out, exactly — you can't buy any cars or head units that have it installed quite yet — but it's coming in a matter of weeks, and that means that Google partners are out in force showing Android Auto devices you'll be able to own in 2015.
Andrew Brenner, product manager for Android Auto at Google, sounds like he was basically born for the job: he got it, he says, because he'd hacked the dashboard of his own car with a Nexus 7. Now, he's picking me up in a Hyundai Sonata equipped with a near-production build of his software.
We're going to get married.
Okay, not quite — we're heading over to the KISS Hotter Than Hell Wedding Chapel, one of (I can only imagine) many Gene Simmons-themed holy places in this city. Android Auto is going to get us there.
At this point, we've seen Android Auto in show cars a number of times, but never on the road. The system requires an Android phone (running Lollipop or better) that's plugged into the car, which then offers a special UI in the dash display that's specially designed to limit driver distraction. Voice dictation factors heavily into it — not surprising, considering the work Google has done in that space — but it's also in the way Material Design has been simplified, stripped down to its bare essentials. Brenner says that guidelines state that nothing should require the driver take their eyes off the road for more than a second and a half, and that certainly seems plausible after I spend time with it.
Material Design has been simplified, stripped down to its bare essentials
It's also responsive. Requiring Lollipop (and the hardware specs that come with it) probably helps, but touch lag is virtually nonexistent — a far cry from the wonky own-branded navigation systems pushed by most automakers.
Basically, between this and CarPlay, I'm pretty convinced we're looking at the future here. You know your smartphone, it works great for playing music and navigating to places — seeing it seamlessly move over to your car only makes sense.
I just wish it had been a little less eager to help me get married in Vegas.