Android Auto, Google's system for bouncing Android features from smartphones to in-car entertainment systems, is available in over 30 countries by now, and it just added one of the biggest remaining markets to the list. The system can be used in Japan, the world's third biggest producer of cars, today.
At a press conference in Tokyo this morning, Google announced immediate Android Auto support from a handful of cars — the Audi Q7 and A4, the 2016 Honda Accord, and various vehicles from Maserati and VW — along with navigation units from Nissan and Panasonic. Google also highlighted music streaming service Awa as an example of local app support, though users of dominant Japanese chat app Line may have to make do with Chinese rival WeChat for now.
Toyota and Mazda still won't get on board
Toyota, the world's biggest carmaker, and Mazda are the most notable companies yet to get behind Android Auto, and today's launch of the system in their home country has apparently done nothing to change that. At Google's I/O conference in May, the company did announce a version of Android Auto that runs entirely on the phone so that you can use it in any car, but there's no news on when it might be released beyond sometime this year.
I just tested the Japanese version of Android Auto by taking a quick ride around Azabu and Roppongi, the district where Google's Tokyo office is located, in a Honda Accord hybrid. As you might expect, it works just like the software we reviewed about a year ago in the US, which is to say it works pretty well — it's a simple system with clean, sensible design, and the Japanese localization appeared natural enough.
Japan is one of the most important markets for both Google and the car industry, so today's announcement could have a fairly significant impact on the overall proliferation of Android Auto. Apple's competing CarPlay system is already available in the country.