Mobile technology is all around us. Once only part of phones and PDAs, it has expanded into a dizzying array of tablets, ultrabooks and hybrids, blurring the lines between devices we know and new ones we do not. This new shift has brought its own challenges and opportunities, and Android Auto represents a new frontier for software development and technological innovation.
In a mobile world, we are inundated with notifications. Emails, social media updates, and push notifications arrive at irregular intervals, and each insists on capturing a piece of our attention. Unfortunately, we have learned to respond instinctively to these, which can prove disastrous while driving. Android Auto’s first aim is to become a safe platform for displaying and responding to notifications. As is true with Google Now, notifications are displayed on cards which are read out loud and presented in ways that don’t distract from the road.
New controls for new interactions
While driving, your hands are on the wheel. Auto’s integrated steering wheel controls facilitate interaction for times when voice won’t do and touch is necessary.
Google Apps where they’re needed most
Many of us have used Google Maps while driving, as its rich contextual information offers benefits above and beyond other GPS navigation solutions. Real-time traffic alerts help to circumvent congestion, while lane and route updates are pushed to consumers much more quickly than they are with more traditional providers.
Auto integrates Maps directly into the vehicle, making it always available regardless of whether another Android device is present. Further, Auto integrates Google’s other cloud-based offerings to provide a rich experience. Google Music grants access to songs both on a local device and in Google Play’s cloud.
Additional apps from Pandora and Spotify bring the world of streaming internet music into the vehicle, and are sure to challenge digital and satellite radio providers’ entertainment offerings. Contacts from connected devices are available to the Auto platform, facilitating easy and safe calling and texting.
Taking app development to the road
App developers have many new opportunities, thanks to Android Auto. Most obviously, audio streaming networks can now compete more directly with radio stations and broadcast networks, offering up content without the challenges of negotiating spectrum or signing with other distribution channels.
In-car use takes mobile development to an entirely new level. Map providers and integrators might use Auto’s features to increase brand engagement, providing spoken notifications when certain venues are nearby, or suggesting deals based on previous locations or expressed interests.
One exciting aspect of Google’s mobile platforms is that they make hardware programmable. Where it was once necessary to build custom hardware to enhance the capabilities of a phone, watch or tablet, all of these devices can now be improved by downloading and launching a piece of software.
While this may sound simple, the implications of this concept are actually quite large. Now, with Android Auto, our cars become gadgets whose capabilities can be improved. Further, technology can integrate with the driving experience in ways that would seem cumbersome on a phone but work quite well behind the wheel.
For instance, imagine an app that tracks and logs gas mileage. Doing this on a phone would prove difficult for a number of reasons. In a vehicle, however, the experience could be made much more seamless. An app might detect that you’ve stopped near a gas station, ask if you’re filling up, then log the change on spoken confirmation. Future versions could suggest tips to improve gas mileage and offer places where fuel is less expensive.
Google is constantly pushing the envelope with its mobile platforms. Today’s Android Auto likely only scratches the surface, and future versions will almost certainly offer many new and exciting ways for mobile app developers to improve the driving experience.