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Android Auto is getting wireless support and 'OK Google' commands

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Android Auto will be getting a couple new features this year that are relatively minor, but promise to make the platform quite a bit more usable.

First up is support for wireless connections. Currently, phones need to be plugged in via USB in order to use Android Auto; with this new capability, you'll be able to do everything over Wi-Fi, which is especially great for the growing number of vehicles that have standard or optional wireless charging plates built into their consoles. (You don't need to be charging the phone in order to use the feature, but having Android Auto running while servicing an always-on Wi-Fi connection will likely punish the battery otherwise.)

Notably, Apple announced wireless support for CarPlay last year — but no production vehicles are known to support it, and Volkswagen said in January that Apple actually stopped it from demoing the feature. Google, meanwhile, says that adding wireless support is a relatively simple matter for vehicles that already support both Android Auto and Wi-Fi, but there's no word on whether any existing vehicles already on the market will actually be upgraded.

You won't have to touch anything to activate Android Auto

Next — and this is actually really great — Android Auto will get support for the "OK Google" hotword, which means you don't have to touch anything to activate it. Voice hotwords have gone mainstream thanks to Google, Siri, Cortana, and the Amazon Echo, so it was only a matter of time before they came to cars, too. The smart thing is that no new hardware will be needed in the car, because it's the phone that listens for the command before transferring control over to the center console.

We don't know exactly when the new features will launch, but it'll be in the coming months. Notably, they won't be tied to the launch of Android N, which is especially promising for phones that don't get upgrades in a timely fashion.