Driving is part of doing business. Whether you're commuting or driving to meet a client, your workday doesn't stop just because you're in the car. That's where Android Auto comes in. Google's new platform lets you connect your Android smartphone to a vehicle so you can perform a variety of tasks while driving, without fiddling with your smartphone. It could make you safer, and more productive, too.
Here's how it will work. First, you'll plug your Android smartphone into a compatible car, and a special Android interface will appear on the car's touch-screen dashboard. From there, you can access a variety of features and applications including navigation, messaging, phone calls, reminders and even the ability to ask Google for the answer to a specific question. All those actions can be completed using a combination of voice controls and steering wheel buttons, so you can stay safe and keep your eyes on the road.
Android Auto isn't available yet, but it's coming soon to vehicles from nearly 30 different manufacturers, and it will be compatible with many existing cars. For now, read on to find out how it could help you stay connected and productive when you're on the road.
Android Auto lets you take advantage of Google Maps in new ways. When you first plug in your smartphone, the Android Auto home screen will automatically display potential destinations, pulled directly from your Google searches, calendar and past use.
For example, if you have a business meeting scheduled on Google Calendar, it will show you the destination and let you navigate there with one tap. Meanwhile, if you have recently performed a Google search for a specific destination, your home screen can suggest that location. Android Auto can also learn your routine to supply navigation suggestions. For example, once it learns your normal commute times, it can automatically show you traffic data for your typical route, and suggest alternative directions if necessary.
You can also use a button on your steering wheel to activate the Android Auto voice controls, then initiate navigation completely hands-free by saying "navigate to," then stating your destination. You can say a specific address, or state a general destination such as "gas station," "parking" or "hotel." Let voice navigation guide you, or switch it off by tapping the oversized mute button on your display.
Android Auto makes it easy to place and receive business calls while you're driving. For starters, the home screen will automatically suggest contacts based on your smartphone usage. If you have a missed call, for example, Android Auto lets you call that person back with one tap, and complete the call hands-free using your car's speakers. Your address book is also easy to reach; just tap the oversized contacts icon at the bottom of your car's display to access the complete list of contacts from your Android phone.
The real benefit to using Android Auto, though, is that it makes car calls safer. To place a call, initiate voice controls with the steering wheel button, then state "call" and say the name of the contact. Meanwhile, when an incoming call arrives, the caller's name is shown on your display; just tap to answer. That way you can avoid fumbling with your smartphone when you need to focus on driving.
Smartphone reminders are a powerful tool to help you stay on top of your work week. Android Auto incorporates reminders with an easy-to-use, hands-free interface. Just activate voice controls while driving, then state your reminder. For example, say "Remind me to check my email when I get home," or "Remind me to mail that package at noon tomorrow." Android understands natural language, so you're able to state your reminder in simple terms. Reminders set using Android Auto are automatically transferred to your Android smartphone, so when the time comes you'll be automatically alerted, whether you're in the car or in the office.
Text messaging is an essential part of daily communication, but texting while driving is one of the most dangerous things you can do. Android Auto makes messaging in the car much safer, since you can send and receive messages using only your voice. When a new message arrives, you will be automatically alerted with a chime. Just tap your display to hear the message read aloud.
If you want to reply to a new message, just say "reply." Android Auto will ask you to state your message, then read it back to you once you're finished. Confirm that the message is correct to send it. Alternately, you can send a new text message by activating voice controls, then stating "text (contact name)." Android Auto will guide you through the process of dictating, confirming and finally sending your message. It might be best to wait until you're parked to read or send text messages, but in an emergency, using Android Auto is much safer than doing it the old-fashioned way.
Android Auto has all the power of Google's Web search packed right into its voice search feature. You can access almost any information you want just by asking. For example, ask "What's the weather?" or "What's the forecast for Thursday?" for the latest weather information for your area. You can also ask for weather about another location, if you have a business trip planned. If you need to drop off a package, ask "How late is the post office open?" for business hours for the nearest location. You can then say "Navigate there," and Android Auto will load turn-by-turn directions to guide you to the post office. Alternately, ask "How is Apple stock doing today?" and Android Auto will read you the latest stock market information about that company.
Android Auto can even dig into your personal Google accounts to provide up-to-date alerts. For example, ask "What's my next appointment?" for instant information about the next item on your Google Calendar.