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Google updates Android Auto design with new default dark mode

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A bunch of little changes that should make Android Auto easier to use

Android Auto is getting a little refresh, as Google announced a new version of its smartphone-powered infotainment system ahead of the company’s I/O developer conference this week. Due out this summer, it’s supposed to be more intuitive, actionable, and should require fewer taps to get things done — and it’s also going to sport a new default dark mode theme.

The highlight of the Android Auto design refresh is a new, more dynamic persistent navigation bar at the bottom of the user interface. Instead of just static white buttons on a black background, the new version allows some apps to essentially take over a section of the navigation bar, allowing for more granular control without requiring the driver to switch to the full app in question.

For example, if you’re using Google Maps to navigate to a destination, but don’t have the full app open on the screen, the new navigation bar will show the next step in the turn-by-turn directions. Or if you have the full map view open, but there’s music playing in the background, the navigation bar will surface play / pause / skip controls for apps like Spotify. (Google says “all media apps” will be able to take advantage of this out of the gate as long as they’re already approved for Android Auto.)

The newer navigation bar also features one-tap access to Google Assistant, and it moves the home button all the way to the left (instead of in the middle) so it’s a little less of a reach. Notifications in the notification center now have more available actions, and the app launcher’s design has been tidied up as well.

The point of this refresh, according to Android Auto product manager Rod Lopez, is to “help you get on the road faster, show more useful information at a glance and simplify common tasks while driving.” So in addition to the design changes noted above, Google says the updated Android Auto can now automatically continue to play media and will also open up “your navigation app of choice” as soon as you plug your phone into the car.