Android Auto, Google’s platform for connected cars, got a major update earlier this month. Previously, Google’s answer to Apple’s CarPlay required a fancy (and expensive) heads-up entertainment console, but that’s no longer the case — you can use any old Android smartphone or tablet as an Android Auto unit. And soon, the experience will get even better: on Thursday, Google began rolling out support for hands-free voice commands.
Eagle-eyed Reddit user neo5468 spotted the change in the most recent version of the Android Auto companion app. The new setting, when enabled, allows you to initiate a command or web search when the Android Auto interface is on screen. Shout “OK Google” and your smartphone or tablet will begin listening for commands to play a song, for example, or adjust your phone’s volume level, toggle settings like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, pull up directions, or give the local temperature and elevation.
The feature appears to be rolling out gradually — that is to say, Google’s enabling the feature selectively. Installing the newest version of the Android Search and Auto apps might improve your chances, but you’ll still have to wait your turn.
For the uninitiated, Android Auto centers around a home screen containing the most relevant bits of information at any given moment. If you receive a phone call or text, you’ll see the content of a message, for example, and if there’s a road closure, you’ll see detour details. The platform’s apps include turn-by-turn navigation apps like Google Maps, music apps like Google Play Music, Spotify, iHeart Radio, TuneIn, Joyride, Stitcher, and communication apps like Google Hangouts.
The new and improved Android Auto — version 2.0 — provides access to car-optimized apps like Google Play Music, Maps, Pandora, and real-time information like traffic incidents and weather. It launches automatically when your phone is paired to your car via Bluetooth, and supports voice commands for Google Maps, music, and messaging apps. And it tightly integrates with vehicles from automakers like Honda and Hyundai. The latter’s MyHyundai Android Auto app, for instance, provides access to Hyundai Roadside Assistance, monthly vehicle reports, maintenance alerts, and a Valet mode that notifies you if your car exits a pre-determined boundary.
Google said more than 200 new car models from 50 brands now support Android Auto. The most recent to jump aboard, Kia, recently deployed Android Auto as a free software update on cars spanning models years 2014 through 2017. Another carmaker, Hyundai, rolled out the platform as part of an update for certain models of Genesis, Elantra GT, Tuscon, and Santa Fe.