What is Android Auto: Everything you need to know | Top Gear
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What exactly is Android Auto and what does it do?

All you need to know about this Google-based car technology

Published: 20 Jan 2023

When it comes to wanting the navigation, audio choices and telephone connectivity we get on our smart devices in our cars, why reinvent the wheel? Like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto is a phone-mirroring application, enabling drivers to have a more seamless in-cabin experience while on the road. It works in the UK, but also in other countries.

Car makers aren’t historically renowned for providing incredible infotainment experiences. They’re great at building pretty new cars but over the last couple of decades, they’ve been pushed into forming some - perhaps in part, reluctant - partnerships with those beastly techbods from Silicon Valley.

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Why reluctant? We’ve all come to appreciate our value as consumers; we’re the product. Our data, where we travel, what we listen to, the routes we take, the areas we visit are key pieces of information that tech companies love to monetise. 


What exactly does Android Auto do?

Android Auto enables drivers to use the apps on their phone on the car’s display screen with minimal distraction. By being able to access apps you’re already familiar with, it’s expected that journeys will be safer. Android Auto claims to help drivers ‘stay focused, connected and entertained’. It also enables drivers to use Google Assistant, which again they’re probably more used to than the car brand’s own digital voice assistant.

How do I connect Android Auto to my car?

You have to have an Android handset with a data SIM connection, operating a minimum Android 8.0. If your car has Android Auto integration, you’ll either connect via a high-quality USB data cable, through 5G wifi connection to the infotainment system or with Bluetooth.

What’s the difference between Android Auto and Google Driving Assistant Mode?

Not all new cars have Android Auto integrated, so for drivers without a way of connecting their phone to their car in that way, Google Driving Assistant Mode enables drivers to use their handset as the display screen for navigation apps like Waze and audio apps, like Audible, Spotify, Tidal and (ta-dah!) Google Music. 

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You have got to be careful though. As of July 2022, UK mobile phone legislation means you cannot touch your smartphone device while driving at all. 

Do I need an app for Android Auto?

Yep, you need to download the Android Auto app onto your handset and then that’ll communicate with the app that sits on the car’s software platform. You can download it from the Google Play store for free. There isn’t a monthly fee to use Android Auto, though there may be in the future.

What if I can’t get Android Auto to connect?

If you’ve got the phone and the car and the app and you’re still struggling to get Android Auto to connect... take a breath. It will work but as with all the best tech advice you've ever received, you might need to turn stuff off and back on again.

Also, Android Auto uses the sensor in your phone to figure out if you’re on the move. It won’t connect if you’re travelling, even if your passenger is the one fiddling with the phone, while you keep your eyes on the road.

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