Google has announced plans to update Android Auto to reduce the time drivers are required to look at screens. This includes the obligatory mention of leveraging artificial intelligence. But the phrase has become a blanket term for any advanced computing integrated into other systems, meaning we have to dig a little deeper to understand what AI brings to the table. While Google hasn’t gotten overly specific, it has said it wants to place an emphasis on improving safety.
One of the features being teased includes the ability to summarize messages received on your mobile device, with the application offering suggested responses that cut down on the time needed to interface with the vehicle. With AI likewise being dangled in front of us, odds are good it will incorporate data from your previous messages to come up with something you might actually say — rather than defaulting to generic responses shown in the teasers.
Responses will also take into account contextual clues to help build better replies. For example, if you’re using navigation, the system can offer up your estimated arrival time if it believes you’re attempting to visit them. Although this does get creepy when you take into account the fact that Google knows where you’re headed and likely has also some idea of where the person you’re speaking to currently resides.
EVs are similarly supposed to benefit from improved battery range estimates that take into account your given route. Assumptions about how much battery range you’ll have upon arrival are supposed to get better, with the ideal charging points being recommended in advance of the journey.
There will be additional changes made to how Android Auto works with Google Maps and other applications owned by Alphabet. Better integration is supposed to make the user experience smoother, reducing the number of steps required to share information. Let’s say someone drops a pin in a group conversation. After the latest update, Android Auto should be able to infer driving directions and help steer motorists to the closest place to park in a single step.
Considering navigation is probably the best thing to come out of the bloated technocracy we currently find ourselves in, some of those changes probably won’t add a lot of practical utility. However, if Google can reduce the amount of time drivers have to devote to their screens, there are bound to be safety benefits. While regulators have spent the last few years pretending they cannot understand why fatal accidents have pitched up, the shrewd among us have realized that constantly having to interface with touchscreens in automobiles is inherently distracting.
Studies have shown that older systems are typically far safer. But the cost savings associated with not having to install loads of buttons and additional revenue streams allotted via touchscreen interfaces are too sweet for the industry to ignore. Manufacturers have pressed on with the trend, despite just about every consumer satisfaction survey suggesting that it’s incredibly unpopular with drivers — reducing overall consumer satisfaction for the first time in a while.
Google probably understands this. But it likewise wants your data and for you to continue using Android Auto, so it’s tweaking the system accordingly. For the update, the company plans on making it more closely resemble how things are oriented on your smartphone. We’re not sure if this will actually lead to any safety benefits, as it doesn’t sound like it would simplify the interface. However, it will mirror how your applications are configured and (according to Google) mirror your chosen wallpaper. While pointless from a functional perspective, it will excite a subset of users bent on customizing the center console.
Basically, the whole shebang revolves around improving features that make Android Auto easier to use while Google continues its technological arms race with Apple CarPlay. Our guess is that most of the changes are a step in the right direction. But drivers will still have to lean on their touch screens to accomplish all of the above tasks and your author is compelled to point out that the safest thing will always be to limit the use of any non-essential features (even those embedded into the center console) while in motion.
Android Auto 11.1 beta is out now for those who want to test the waters while Google irons out the kinks. But the company said all users should see the new features formally rolled out later this year.
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