[Update 2: Live on Play Store] The Android Auto app will no longer be supported in favor of Google Assistant’s new driving mode
Google announced Android Auto in a time when automobile manufacturers were looking for new ways to bring in more tech-savvy customers. They have been competing with other car infotainment systems from Apple and car makers, but they are making a lot of progress in the area. Google expanded the Android Auto user base by introducing a mobile app that offered similar features for those who didn’t have a built-in infotainment system (or one that didn’t support Android Auto). However, we have just learned that Google will no longer be supporting this application and will market the Google Assistant’s new driving mode instead.
This is an interesting choice to make here because it seems as if Google is fragmenting the user base. Android Auto existed in two forms: built-in infotainment systems and the mobile app. So even if you didn’t have one (or didn’t like one) then you could use the other. As we have learned, Google is not discontinuing or rebranding the infotainment system version of Android Auto here.
Instead, they are simply phasing out support for the Android Auto mobile application and have put those features in Google Assistant’s new Driving Mode. This new feature for Google Assistant was announced at Google I/O 2019 this week along with the news that it’s coming to Waze as well. The company wants to use this new feature as a way to predict what you want to do when you start driving. To initiate the new feature, you simply have to activate Google Assistant and then say “let’s drive.”
Google Assistant will then take up the entire screen of the smartphone and offer some tidbits of information at the top (such as traffic conditions). You are then offered quick access to various functions including the navigation mode, placing a call, or playing some media. With Google Assistant being tied into so many other aspects of your personal information, it can suggest shortcuts to places it predicts you want to go, offer to resume a podcast you were listening to earlier, tell you about incoming/missed phone calls, and more.
Update 1: “Android Auto for Phone Screens” App
In an odd move, Google appears to be backtracking a bit on killing the Android Auto app for phones. A Google support page talks about how Android Auto is built into Android 10, but in the coming weeks, they will be “publishing a separate app called ‘Android Auto for Phone Screens’ in the Play Store.” They say the app will allow users to continue using the phone screen version of Android Auto.
It’s possible that this is not an “app” and just a shortcut to Assistant’s Driving Mode. It could also be Google completely backtracking and releasing a new Auto app for phones, or re-releasing the old one. We should know more soon.
Update 2: Live on Play Store
The strange “Android Auto for Phone Screens” App is now available in the Play Store. The “app” is literally just a shortcut to Android Auto. That’s because the Android Auto app icon will soon be hidden by default when Google Assistant driving mode rolls out, and it’s already hidden for some devices on Android 10. Yes, this is all a bit strange and convoluted.