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Google Launches the New-Generation Android Auto: Everything You Need to Know

After a wait that took longer than originally projected, the new Android Auto is finally here, coming with features that users have been drooling over for many years already.
The new Android Auto UI 9 photos
Photo: Google
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Also known as Coolwalk, the facelifted Android Auto experience has started rolling out to users who aren’t part of the beta program, though worth knowing is that the whole thing is happening in stages.

In other words, not everybody is going to get the Android Auto redesign today, but the new interface should be there for all users in the coming weeks.

So what is this highly anticipated redesign all about?

First and foremost, if you’ve used CarPlay before, you’re already familiar with the card-based Dashboard that allows users to run multiple apps side by side on the same screen

Coolwalk, or the new-generation Android Auto, is based on a similar approach. It also uses a card-based interface, and once again, the navigation app gets the biggest screen estate for obvious reasons. The experience is also similar to the one on CarPlay – tapping any card allows you to expand the app to the full screen for additional information.

Google Maps is currently the only navigation app that can use the navigation card in the new-generation Android Auto, but the same feature is also in the works in Waze. Most likely, the rest of the navigation apps with Android Auto support should get the same capabilities sooner rather than later.

The remaining cards allow users to manage the active phone calls, but also control the playing media. Android Auto now comes with a seeking bar, with the company explaining that this has long been one of the most popular feature requests.

The new Android UI
Photo: Google
Originally projected to go live in the summer of the last year after the public revealing at I/O, the Android Auto redesign needed more time to be ready for prime time. As a result, the search giant pushed back the launch, with the first users allowed to try it out in late 2022 as part of the beta program.

I’ve been using Coolwalk for several weeks already in the existing beta builds of Android Auto, but the final version feels a lot more polished. For example, the media card uses the Material You design language to display the album art, something that has only recently been added to the beta builds, with all information shown correctly now.

But without a doubt, the best thing about the new-generation Android Auto is the support for pretty much all display sizes and aspect ratios. For example, while it can run on a typical 7-inch screen that uses the standard landscape mode with a 4:3 aspect ratio, it also feels at home on a portrait display as well.

In other words, you no longer need a split-screen display to run apps side by side, and Google says it specifically tried to make Android Auto compatible with all major carmakers, so it supports displays of all sizes and aspect ratios.

As compared to the CarPlay Dashboard, the new Android Auto also comes with a more advanced Google Assistant experience. For example, the assistant now integrates smart suggestions, so it’s able to show things like missed call reminders, options to quickly share the ETA, and easy access to music and podcasts.

Because the interaction with Android Auto needs to be more convenient and straightforward, quick message replies are now available for everybody. This feature launched several months ago in the current version of Android Auto, but it obviously makes a lot more sense on Coolwalk, especially alongside the aforementioned Google Assistant capabilities.

The new Android UI
Photo: Google
Google is also bringing new capabilities to Android Auto, and without a doubt, one of the most notable is the support for calls in WhatsApp. This feature isn’t yet available, but the Mountain View-based search giant says it should start rolling out soon to users out there. Worth knowing, however, is that only the latest-generation Pixel and Samsung phones will support WhatsApp calls on Android Auto (though the feature should expand to more models in the coming months as well).

The upgraded Android Auto experience, however, doesn’t only come down to the new features that we’ve already talked about earlier.

In addition to the card-based split-screen interface, Android Auto now overall feels a lot more responsive, and thanks to the redesign, accessing the most important features is much more convenient.

The status bar (or the taskbar, if you used to call it this way), offers one-tap access to four most-used apps, so you can toggle between navigation, music apps, and phone calls in just one second.

If you don’t see the Android Auto redesign just yet, there’s nothing you can do to get it faster. Google is using a server-side switch for the rollout, and the redesign is being enabled in stages, as this approach allows the company to collect additional reliability data.

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About the author: Bogdan Popa
Bogdan Popa profile photo

Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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