Google announced a few updates to Android Auto, including a new dashboard for Google Assistant driving mode.
Earlier this year, Google shut down the standalone “Android Auto for Phone Screens” app with Android 12. Instead, Android phone owners are now recommended to use the Google Assistant driving mode available within Google Maps or the native Android Auto interface available in select cars.
For Android customers with older cars who use their phones for navigation and other functions, Google Assistant driving mode now includes “glanceable, tappable cards” with music, text messages, and other frequently used apps collected all in one place. Customers will be able to use voice commands like “Hey Google, let’s drive” to open the new driving mode dashboard, reducing the need to futz with your phone.
Google says this is designed to ensure drivers keep their eyes on the road and not on their phones. Drivers can also have their incoming text messages read out loud to them using voice control.
There are also new updates to Android Auto, which mirrors your smartphone’s display on your car’s infotainment screen. Drivers can select which apps they want to see when they first plug their phone into their car (or when it connects via Bluetooth). This also is designed to cut down on driver distraction.
Distraction is a major problem for drivers, especially as infotainment systems become flashier and more complicated. A recent study found that drivers selecting music with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto had slower reaction times than those who were high from smoking pot. Google has been trying to work its way through this problem for several years now, but they have yet to arrive at a definitive solution.
When their car is safely parked, Android Auto customers can play games from GameSnacks right on their car’s display. For those who don’t recognize the name, GameSnacks is Google’s series of HTML5-based browser games that are meant to be easy to load and play on nearly any device.
Lastly, Google announced that Android Auto users will soon be able to use Google Pay to pay for gas. After pulling into a gas station, drivers need only select their pump number on the screen and Google Pay will do the rest. (Of course, they’ll still need to get out of the car and pump their gas; Google hasn’t figured out how to automate that yet.)
Automakers have been building payment options into their cars for years now. For example, Chevrolet has a deal with Shell that lets drivers pay for gas from their vehicle’s infotainment screen. But this feature has yet to go mainstream.
The new Google Pay feature will be available at 32,500 gas stations in the US starting with Exxon and Mobil stations, with Shell, Conoco, Phillips 66, and 76 stations coming soon.