I adopted Android Auto back in 2016 as my aging car’s in-dash entertainment system when Google phone-only version of Android Auto for vehicles without infotainment systems. Eventually, manufacturers like Anker started making third-party adapters like the Roav Bolt, which plug into a car outlet and broadcast audio through the vehicle’s speakers via Bluetooth. It was a way for me to cheat out of upgrading my car to get hands-free features.
The new Assistant Driving Mode can help you get places without touching the screen while behind the wheel. Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo
I live in the California suburbs, known for their relative un-walkability, exacerbated by the presence of rolling hills and sweltering hot days. I rely on my car to get me and my family places, and I want the least distraction possible when I’m behind the wheel.
But Google plans to do away with the Android Auto standalone phone app and is instead pivoting to a more streamlined experience inside the Google Maps app. It’s called Assistant Driving Mode, and it’s started rolling out to select devices, according to 9to5Google. If you’re running the Android 12 Beta, you should see it pop up once you shout out, “Start driving mode” or, “Let’s drive” to the Google Assistant. Some have also reported it popping up on Android 11 devices running the Google Assistant beta, which you can flip on through the Play Store, though I couldn’t get it to come up myself.
I did manage to get it to work on the Pixel 5 with the latest Android 12 beta update. There’s a support page if you need more help getting it to show up. The new UI is supposed to be available without entering a destination, but I was only able to get the new home screen the first time I asked the Assistant to launch the feature, after which it realized I wasn’t driving anywhere and reverted to Google Maps. The bottom right-hand corner of the Maps app displays a little app drawer button like you’d see on Android, and pressing that takes you to a driving launcher of sorts.
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