Waze tells beta testers long-awaited Android Auto support is getting closer

2016 Chevrolet Spark Android Auto
Waze is a popular navigation app for many drivers, thanks to its crowdsourced traffic updates. You would think, then, that having been owned by Google for the past several years, the app would be a perfect fit for Android Auto. Somehow, that version has not released yet — though drivers may not have to wait much longer.

After hinting at a beta release almost two months ago, it seems Waze is finally ready to begin testing its Android Auto app. According to a report from 9to5Google, the developer is sending users instructions to get started running Waze through their car’s infotainment system. “Beta testing for Waze on Android Auto is getting closer,” the email reads.

The instructions make a couple of things clear. First, not surprisingly the beta will be distributed and conducted through the Play Store Beta Channel. Second, it will only support devices running at least Android 5.0 Lollipop. And third, the app has been optimized for Android Auto such that some features have been “intentionally excluded,” according to the email.

Hopefully, this development means the beta will kick off soon, which would be a major step toward the public release.

In April, Android Police reported Waze began sending invites to its beta users to test drive the app on Android Auto. The email said at the time the beta would go live soon but did not specify a date. It linked to a Google Docs signup page, where those interested could register. If you haven’t joined the beta community, you can still do so here.

Some of Waze’s data, like traffic updates, are already featured in Google Maps, which Android Auto uses for navigation by default. However, Google Maps doesn’t offer drivers the ability to report incidents themselves while on the road. When Waze debuts on Android Auto, it should make that process much easier, with the help of hands-free voice commands and your car’s infotainment display.

News of the long-awaited Android Auto release comes at a pivotal time for Waze, which in February announced it was expanding its Carpool service to multiple cities around the United States after testing in San Francisco and Tel Aviv, Israel. With about 80 million active users, the app has a strong install base to go toe-to-toe with ride-sharing alternatives like Uber and Lyft — though adoption has been slow in the initial test markets.

Additionally, in March the company announced a partnership with Spotify to integrate playback controls conveniently within the navigation interface. Waze has worked with other developers as well and began sharing its routing and guidance data through its Transport software development kit last year. The SDK has been used by Lyft alongside emergency dispatch, parking, and food delivery services worldwide.

Article originally published on 04-04-2017. Updated on 05-30-2017: Added report that instructions have been distributed to beta testers. 

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