Android Auto

As Apple CarPlay and Android Auto make an impact, overall progress stalls

Image Credit: Audi

Don’t ever push the voice button on any new car.

If you don’t have a phone hooked up using a USB cable, it’s a little embarrassing.

The “voice assistance” enabled on most cars these days, from nearly every automaker, is about seven years out of date. You can move to the next track for the current song, walk through a complex decision tree to get directions (usually in a way that requires you spell out the exact street names), and maybe activate the Bluetooth connection if you’re lucky. That’s it. An entire button on most new cars that basically does something you could do way back in 2010? Not good.

I know this because I first started testing cars around 2010, and the buttons worked the same way. They can’t come close to anything related to AI, don’t answer questions, can’t understand simple navigation requests, and are basically ornamental now that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have become so common. The problem, of course, is that CarPlay and Android Auto haven’t really changed that much in the past two years, so progress on voice assistants in cars, when you think about the market as a whole, has stalled out…or is at least waiting for Apple and Google to get busy with some new innovations beyond adding a few more commands and an app or two.

Don’t get me wrong, I like how the phone bots work. Once you connect up an iPhone or a Google Pixel phone, for example, you can control your…

The voice memo feature in the Volvo V90 Cross Country actually works

It’s not a voicebot like Alexa, but it does the job.

A voice memo feature in the 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country can record everything you say, then send the recorded clip to any email address. I tested the feature on the V90, a large and wide wagon with a powerful turbocharged and supercharged 316-horsepower engine.

As you drive, you can pull up one of several apps in the dashboard, including Spotify and one for checking the weather. You can also connect your phone over USB and use Android Auto or Apple CarPlay to make phone calls, use the navigation system on your phone, see and send text messages, and listen to music. Next year, Google plans to integrate Android directly into the dashboard interface of a Volvo, no phone required. Yet the app that really caught my eye in the V90 is called “Record and Send.”

As you drive, you can press a large microphone button and then dictate a memo — I tried several shorter messages like “remember to pick up milk after work,” and a few longer notations, including one that was essentially the beginning of this article. The V90 has two…

Two major carmakers just added Android to their cars’ dashboards

Android Auto is coming to even more cars.
Android Auto is coming to even more cars.

Android is coming to your car — and you won’t even need to bring your phone along for the ride.

A year after Google teased the experience, Android-powered car infotainment systems are much closer to reality. Full Android integration is a step beyond Android Auto, where users can project car-specific versions of apps (like Maps) to a dashboard running some other software; now Android powers the entire system.

The first two carmakers to show off Android-powered cars are Audi and Volvo, and at least one of concept vehicle — Audi’s flashy R8 sport — will be on display at this week’s Google I/O developers conference.

The deeper Android integration means more Android’s features — such as Google’s voice-activated Assistant — will run natively on dashboards. Beyond the usual Android Auto fare of Spotify and Google Maps, you could also use voice to control things like…

How to Make Android Auto More Reliable on Weak Wi-Fi (Like In Your Driveway)

Weak Wi-Fi connections are incredibly frustrating when using Android Auto. Because of its voice-driven interface, it can’t process commands when the connection is weak—especially if the connection is just strong enough to connect, but too weak to actually use. Fortunately, with one toggle your life with Android Auto will get significantly better.

Here’s my scenario: I hop in the car, fire up Android Auto, drop the hotword, and tell Auto to play a song or send a text. I wait while Assistant spins around, trying to figure out what I want it to do—then get the “This internet connection isn’t strong enough…” error. Awesome.

It’s because I’m still in the driveway and connected to my home Wi-Fi. Now, Android is supposed to be smart enough at this point to…

How to Change the Auto-Reply Message in Android Auto

Android Auto does a lot to make your phone more useful and safe in the car—it simplifies the interface and limits functionality, only allowing access to key apps that you need while on the go. More recently, Google incorporated an “auto-reply” feature that allows users to quickly reply to incoming messages.

By default, this action is executed with a simple tap of a button, regardless of whether you’re using Auto on the phone or a dedicated Auto head unit. It works with multiple messaging services, like SMS, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Hangouts, and more.

The default reply is set to “I’m driving right now.” But you’re not a “default message” kind of person, are you? You like a little customization in your messages. I can…