As always, Google I/O this year was packed with a ton of announcements, sessions and sandboxes showcasing what’s been in the making for the last year at Google. Our focus was mostly set on the Automotive updates, and we were not let down.
From the new Google Assistant’s Drive mode to the design updates for Android Auto, ending with the Android Automotive OS and a peek through the Polestar 2 that’ll ship with it, there were a lot of exciting news for automotive and android lovers to go through.
Google Assistant’s Driving mode
One thing that was briefly mentioned in the Google Keynote was the Google Assistant’s new “Drive Mode” which is meant to replace the Android Auto phone screen experience later this year (Android Auto on car screen is still available and getting updates but more on that later)
As obvious from the name, the driving experience is built on top of the Android’s Google Assistant and is able to pull different personal data from your phone (calendar, call history, media history,..) to give you action suggestions.
So, for example, if you have a calendar appointment soon, you’ll be able to see a shortcut for it in the Assistant and directly navigate to it from there. While navigating, you can ask to play a podcast, and it will continue from where you left off.
The dashboard features three main actions: Navigate, Make a call & Media
What I really like, is that Navigation always has the highest priority, so even if you choose to go to another action, there’ll still be a sticky header that shows you your next move. As expected, almost everything is voice enabled, but there still seems like there’s a lot of swiping involved.
Android Auto was first unveiled in 2014’s I/O with the target of giving the user a shared experience between the phone and the car. Android auto basically mirrors features from the user’s phone to the display unit once they’re paired; making the head unit serve as an external display presenting “supported” apps from the phone.
The cool I/O news regarding the Android Auto was its refreshed design rolling out later this summer. This design is aiming to position Android Auto as an intuitive, usable, natural extension from the phone to the car.
Starting with the design language, it moved from a “Google-y” look and feel to a dark palette and neutral themes that matches the car’s interior design and adapting material design to display properly in the car: adaptations such as expanding the grey values, refining blue accent and more typefaces.
The most interesting update happened with the Navigation bar, which shows you turn-by-turn directions, lets you control your apps with a single tap, rewind a podcast, or take incoming calls on one screen. There’s also a Notification center that shows messages, calls and any incoming notification giving you the option to whether address them or ignore till it’s safer.
Android Auto is expected to be available on 100 million cars on the road with android auto next year and with Toyota joining the Android Auto’s OEM partners, more than 95% of the automotive industry will be shipping Android Auto compatible cars.
Android Automotive OS
Unlike Android Auto, The Android Automotive OS doesn’t need an Android phone to run; it’s a totally independent operating system that lives in the car itself with access to apps, media and car functionalities such as battery levels and door locks.
When it comes to designing apps for the Android Automotive OS, a few challenges need to be taken in consideration, such as the different screen sizes and input methods but more importantly, the accountability of keeping the app a “secondary” task and making sure the user’s first priority is always driving, which are thankfully all things that the OS is designed to encourage and enforce with these few elements:
Design for driving guidelines:
- Keep information current and glanceable
- Make targets easy to touch
- Discourage distraction
- Encourage hands-on driving
A consistent framework to be rolled out across OEM manufacturers that helps the UI to adjust smoothly across a range of car models with different screen sizes. This framework is part of what makes it possible to create an app that works flexibly within the car makers’ UIs
Voice optimized UI:
With search via speech to text and Assistant integrated voice commands physical interactions with the screen is minimal, keeping the driver’s focus on the wheel.
A way to make sure the apps are recognizable by the user through the placement of the brand app icon, accent color and custom actions.
The first vehicle to feature the OS will be the fully-electric Polestar 2 from Volvo, which is expected to go into production in 2020, however Google is encouraging developers to start working on apps which they’d be able to submit later this summer.
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