Google introduced a number of new features and services designed for cars at its Google I/O 2023 event on Wednesday, including video conferencing, gaming and YouTube, as the tech company continues its foray into the automotive world.
The company has entered the automotive industry through two avenues: Android Auto, an app that runs on the user’s phone that wirelessly communicates with and projects navigation, parking, media and messages to the vehicle’s infotainment system, and Google built-in, which is powered by its Android Automotive operating system and integrates Google services directly into the vehicle. Android Automotive OS is modeled after the open-source mobile operating system that runs on Linux. But instead of exporting smartphones and tablets, Google adapted it so automakers could use it in their cars.
Google’s goal is to enable the whole connected car experience. And it is successful.
Google has become so common in vehicles that Android Auto is expected to be available in about 200 million vehicles by the end of the year, the company said at its annual developer event.
Google also said it expects the number of Google-built cars to double by the end of this year, including brands such as Chevrolet, Renault, Volvo, Polestar and Honda. (Google has not shared how many vehicles Google is built into today). This means even more cars will integrate directly with Google apps and services like Assistant, Maps and Play.
Here’s an overview of what’s to come:
More ways to stream and game
Google announced on Wednesday that it will make YouTube available to all Google-built vehicles, starting with Polestar.
YouTube joins a list of other available video streaming apps like Tubi and Epix Now.
In the coming weeks, Polestar vehicles will display YouTube as an option to download and stream from the car’s Google Play Store. Google says that more car brands will soon follow that have Google built in. OEMs just need to go through their respective software update processes to bring it to their cars, the company said.
You may also recall that Mercedes struck a deal with Google earlier this year to bring YouTube and other apps to future vehicles.
Speaking of things to do while you wait for an electric car to charge or park, now people who own cars with Google built in can also play games from GameSnacks, a collection of bite-sized games like Solitaire, Beach Buggy Racing, and My Talking Tom Friends from publishers as Vector Unit, FRVR and Outfit7 Limited.
GameSnacks is already available on Android Auto and is used by nearly a million gamers per month, according to the company.
Get more done
Android Auto works with Cisco, Microsoft Teams and Zoom to make conferencing possible. That means users will soon be able to join a conversation directly from their car’s display. This feature will only allow users to join via audio for now.
Cars with Google built-in will soon also have more integration with Google Assistant. According to the company, cars will start seeing smart message suggestions in the coming months.
Leaning on crowdsourced navigation
Google bought Waze, the popular navigation app, in 2013. Instead of folding Waze’s technology into Maps, Google has kept the separate product even as Google combined Waze and Maps teams last December under pressure to cut costs .
In March, Waze launched the ability for users to find a nearby charging station through its mobile app. And because it’s Waze, the community of volunteers makes sure users have all the facts before they drive there, like whether the charging points actually work and whether it’s the right type of plug.
On Wednesday, Waze announced plans to include users driving with Waze in the car on Android Auto, Google built-in or Apple CarPlay. That means drivers can now receive that information on their in-car display without having to use their mobile phone.
Add to Android for Cars app library
In 2020, Google opened its Cars App Library to developers and OEMs so they could design, develop, and test navigation, parking, or charging apps that are compatible with two different, but sometimes overlapping, platforms: Android OS and Android Auto. It also means developers can create a single app that should work seamlessly across different makes and models of vehicles. The library has templates that developers can tap to help ensure their apps meet driver distraction standards.
Android for Cars App Library, which is available as part of Jetpack, was created to support the Android Automotive operating system powered by Android Automotive OS. Many third-party developers like Spotify have used the Android for Cars App Library to create and publish their Android Auto apps to the Play Store. When Google took the step in 2020 to extend the Cars app to the operating system, developers only had to build once.
On Google I/O Day, Google expanded the types of apps that Android Auto developers can bring to cars with Internet of Things (IoT) and weather apps. All developers have access to the IoT category, but Weather is still in an early access program. As part of this, the Weather Channel app will be available later this year.
In addition, developers interested in building apps for passenger and parking experiences can now bring video, gaming and browser apps normally available on tablets to cars for distribution directly through Play. And because Google Voice Assistant is built-in, developers have the option to add Assistant integrations to their apps to enable more hands-free interactions.