February 22, 2024

What is Android Auto?

If you have a relatively recent car, it most likely supports Android Auto, which offers…

If you have a relatively recent car, it most likely supports Android Auto, which offers a variety of apps and services you can benefit from when driving, both wirelessly or by using a cable connection. But before talking about how it works and which cars support it, let’s first look at Android Auto’s history and what it is.

It’s important not to confuse it with Android Automotive, a full-featured operating system that powers some cars’ infotainment systems, like the Polestar 2’s. On the other hand, Android Auto requires a paired phone connected to a compatible infotainment system to work, just like Apple’s CarPlay.

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History

Android Auto was first announced during the 2014 Google I/O. About a year later, Hyundai’s 2015 Sonata was the first car to support it. The app has come a long way since then, with a significant redesign in 2019. Android Auto has gradually expanded to more countries and many new makes and models.

More recently, Google replaced the mobile app with Assistant Driving Mode and kept Android Auto exclusively available on car screens. Android Auto often receives improvements, such as the most recent update, which brings support for even more apps and features.


How Android Auto works

Android Auto requires a constant connection between your car’s compatible infotainment system and your Android phone. The computing is done on your handset, which projects various apps and content on your car’s screen, making it easier to interact with your favorite software while driving, using a dedicated, driver-friendly interface.

You can essentially use your favorite apps for navigation, music, podcasts, and more through your car’s screen. This means Android Auto comes on top of your car’s existing infotainment system without replacing it. You can use your car’s built-in navigation software or switch to Android Auto whenever you want. The latter’s benefits include using your favorite apps and the same interface, whichever car you’re in.


Wired vs. wireless Android Auto

Depending on your car, you may be able to use Android Auto wirelessly. This means you can leave your phone in your pocket, and it will automatically connect to your car wirelessly, letting you use Android Auto on your car’s screen without needing a cable connection. While this method is convenient, keep in mind that it depletes your phone’s battery and needs more resources to run than using a good old cable.

In addition to using your phone wirelessly, you can plug it in using a USB cable. This method is more widely compatible, as some manufacturers don’t yet support wireless Android Auto. More importantly, using a cable will ensure your phone’s battery is being charged while driving, ensuring you reach your destination with a full phone.

How to use Android Auto

Now that you know what Android Auto is, let’s see how to use it:

Use Android Auto with a wired connection

The easiest way to connect your phone to your car is to use a USB cable:

  1. In your car, switch the ignition on. Keep the parking brake on and the shift lever on P (or on neutral if you drive a stick).
  2. Plug your phone into your car using a USB cable.
  3. Most systems automatically prompt you to launch Android Auto. If your car doesn’t, you may need to press an App or Android Auto button.
  4. When plugged in for the first time, you’ll have to accept a couple of prompts on your phone and the car’s screen.

  5. When the initial setup is complete, Android Auto automatically opens on your car’s screen. Before driving, a couple of cards appear on your screen to show you how it works and what you can do with it.
  6. If your car is compatible with wireless Android Auto, tap your car’s App or Android Auto button and select your phone. The connection is established automatically, without the need for extra steps.


Use Android Auto with a wireless connection

If you don’t have a cable handy, here’s how to wirelessly pair your phone with your car. This may not work with all compatible cars, especially older models.

  1. In your car, switch the ignition on. Keep the parking brake on and the shift lever on P (or on neutral if you drive a stick).
  2. Navigate to your phone’s settings and search for Android Auto.
  3. Tap the blue Connect a car button.
  4. You’re asked to plug your phone into the car with a USB cable. Ignore that prompt and tap Connect using wireless Android Auto.

  5. If you have a compatible model produced in or after 2021, you may be able to press and hold the voice command button on your steering wheel to pair your phone. Since this option only works with very few models, it’s better to tap Connect using Bluetooth and select Pair a car.

  6. Pair your phone with your car’s Bluetooth connection, like you usually would if connecting a regular phone to your car. This means you may need to make your car’s infotainment system discoverable before pairing them. In most cases, you’ll also have to confirm the pairing code on both systems.
  7. Once paired, your phone automatically launches the Android Auto setup process on your car, and Android Auto automatically launches on your car’s screen.
  8. Next time you’re in your car, tap your car’s App or Android Auto button and select your phone. The connection is established automatically, without the need for extra steps.


Get driving

Next time you drive, you can use Android Auto to listen to music or one of our favorite podcasts, get to your destination using Google Maps, Waze, and even Here WeGo, send messages using dictation, or have Assistant read them out loud to you. Not only can you use built-in apps, but you can also download new ones and customize your experience to make it more enjoyable.

Also, since it natively comes with Assistant, Android Auto lets you interact with your car in a new way, allowing you to ask it to turn your lights off when you leave, start the washer when you’re on your way home, or open your garage door when you’re close to home. In addition to these fancy tasks, it can perform basic ones as well, such as telling you about the weather, setting timers, and sending messages without interfering with your driving.

Get your infotainment while you’re on the go

Some things can be frustrating with Android Auto and are sometimes better designed with CarPlay. Overall, though, Android Auto is an excellent interface that brings your car’s infotainment to the next level, with a wide selection of apps and the ability to interact with Assistant while driving.