Do You Need Android Auto in Your Car?

What is Android Auto?

Cars are becoming an integral part of everyday life and many people use their mobile phones for GPS navigation and listening to music when driving. This is because Google Maps is much better than any other system available in a vehicle.

Android Auto is about extending the Android platform to a car. Android Auto is a smart phone projection standard developed by Google to allow mobile devices running the Android operating system (from version 5.0 “Lollipop” and later) to be operated in automobiles through the dashboard’s head unit. Android Auto was announced on June 25, 2014, at Google I/O 2014. The Android Auto mobile app was released on March 19, 2015.

Android Auto uses the phone to broadcast a new user interface onto the car’s dashboard’s touchscreen, thus bringing the power of phone to the car. This technology is welcomed by many automobile manufacturers.

Automobile manufacturers

Android Auto has an interface which is very familiar to that of Android mobile devices. It has a big home screen with integrated Google map, phone call and support for a slew of audio applications. It uses voice control similar to “Ok Google” which we use in mobile phones. Voice control helps drivers to keep their eyes on the road. It will read texts, as well as reply, launch any app, navigate to a location, or play music with a simple voice command. It is just like Android Wear which is an Android companion which you wear on your wrist. Android Auto is a companion that goes in the car.

Android Auto comes in three forms:

  • a car that has Android Auto built-in (many 2017 models have android auto),
  • aftermarket Android Auto head unit which can be installed, and
  • app version on the phone.

Several car stereo manufacturers are getting into the Android Auto these days, with companies like JBL, Kenwood, and Pioneer leading the pack.

We will focus on the Android Auto built-in system. Both built-in and aftermarket Android Auto head unit functions are same, with a little bit of change in the design.

A New Head Unit

What is Android Auto?

Like any other head unit, Android Auto head unit has a touch screen which will give you a quick access to phone, directions to recently searched places, and music. The head unit interface looks similar to the Android phone, with large dedicated buttons along the bottom for Map, Phone, Home, Music and Exit Auto button which will return to the head unit’s primary interface.


How Does It Work?

Android Auto isn’t a standalone product. It is actually powered by Mobile. You have to plug the Android mobile into the car head unit via USB, and the phone communicates with Auto through USB and Bluetooth at the same time -depending on what it is doing. For example, music will be played over USB, but make phone calls over Bluetooth. Since the phone stays plugged in, it is always charged, so no worries of battery running low!

Google Play Music - How does it works?

Android Auto has an app that runs on the smart phone, which does all the heavy lifting. As soon as you install the app and plug the phone into an Auto unit, it pairs the smart phone over Bluetooth and handles everything else over the USB connection and hence, very little knowledge is required for the user to get started.

Android Auto will force itself into the foreground of the phone, removing access to all controls aside from Home and Back. The basic idea is to keep users eyes off the phone while driving.

The safety features don’t stop with the phone as Android Auto itself has certain safety features built-in. For example, it will only let you scroll through three pages in an app such as Google Play Music while driving.

Google Play Music Driving


The idea behind Android Auto is to control everything with your voice. By this, we can make people to focus on the road by limiting interaction with the phone.


Android Auto isn’t perfect, of course. The biggest issue is with voice control. Sometimes it works well, other times it will have some trouble understanding what we are saying.

But this is just the beginning. We can expect lot more from future versions of Android Auto!


  • Keerthi Raj

    Keerthi Raj works as Software Engineer with Trigent Software. He has over four years experience in Android/Mobile application development and hands-on experience in developing interactive, end-to-end business applications. Keerthi has strong expertise in Java, Android Studio, JSON, XML integrating third party APIs and Libraries such as Adventure Motorsports.