GOOGLE’S Android Auto app has, since its launch in 2014, attempted to provide a viable alternative to the often tempestuous entertainment software in modern cars.
Designed so that users of phones such as the Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy can use apps from their phone, it hopes to take the driver’s attention off their handset and onto their dashboard.
Android Auto makes it possible to use a selection of apps via the car’s touchscreen, including Spotify and Audible, as well as making it possible to use messaging and calling functions. It also enables the use of navigation apps such as Google Maps and Waze, instead of having to use often sub-par in-built systems.
Users can either operate the software manually using their car’s touchscreen, or use the Google Assistant, which is voice activated. Users of Android 9 and below need to download the app, whilst the function is integrated into Android 10.
The system has, however, encountered compatibility and reliability issues since its launch, and after Google released version 5 at the end of January, this remained true.
Drivers with Samsung handsets, for example, have reported issues with the voice control feature, often rendering the entire system useless. Other drivers have reported that the update has stopped their steering wheel buttons from functioning, meaning they cannot accept phone calls at the wheel.
A bug also means that some users have found that sending texts using the voice command has become impossible. The latest update to the Waze navigation app also makes it difficult to use through Android Auto.
“When it works it’s great,” says one review on Google Play, while also stating that “at least half the time it doesn’t work correctly.”
Another reads: “When it works, it’s great but it’s rare.”
The latest update, version 5.1.5006, released on February 20, has been deployed to get rid of these bugs as well as to add the ability to turn off media notifications and get weather information in the status bar.
Apps such as Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay, which is designed for use with iPhones, represent a push by mobile phone companies to keep a driver’s attention on the road. Although the government doubled the penalty for mobile phone use while driving in 2017 — to a £200 fine and 6 penalty points — 33 deaths and 90 serious injuries were attributed to phone use while driving in the same year, according to the Department for Transport.
Not all cars are compatible with Android Auto — notably BMWs only run Apple CarPlay — but most models released in the last three years are equipped with the system.