When we were shopping around for our family car last year, one of the first things I put down on my list of must-haves was Android Auto support. Google’s in-car platform has become essential for my drive, even if I’m heading down the street to run a quick errand. At CES 2022, Google revealed more features coming to Android in cars, including more ways to connect.
One of my issues with Android Auto is that you can’t use it wirelessly in the car, even with Bluetooth connectivity. Users had figured out which third-party dongles to buy to facilitate this, but a new first-party option from Motorola will be much easier to get set up. The Motorola MA1 costs $90 and will let you project Android Auto wirelessly through a USB port in your car.
Select BMW and Ford cars will support Google’s Fast Pair feature in Android Auto, making it even easier to connect.
Google also has plans to expand its digital car key to more cars. The digital car key lets you unlock your car, start it up, and even share a digital key with a friend or family member using your Android phone. The feature launched in select BMW models about a month ago, but Google plans for more Ultra Wideband-enabled smartphones to be able to use the keyless entry.
Google has additional plans for its Android Automotive OS platform, built into cars from Polestar, Volvo, and General Motors. Google says more manufacturers are expected to use the platform this year, which offers Google Play built directly into the dash. Some new apps are coming to it, too, including offline navigation from Sygic and Flitsmeister, parking apps like SpotHero and ParkWhiz, and charging apps for electric vehicles, ChargePoint and PlugShare. Those apps will also be available to regular Android Auto users.
If you’re already inside a Volvo with Android Automotive OS, you’ll have access later this year to a YouTube-in-the-car option. It only pops up when the car is in park, but it’s another way Google hopes you’ll stay entertained while, say, waiting for your passenger to do a quick pickup at the drugstore. The idea is also to keep you from disconnecting your smartphone and then reconnecting it to get back on the road. And at the very least, there’s the promise of a safety feature to keep you from pulling a Tesla.
Volvo drivers will also be the first to experience Google’s remote actions in the car. You’ll be able to ask Google to warm up or cool down the vehicle and lock and unlock it without getting up and walking to the garage. And of course, this will be possible through any Google Assistant-enabled device.