I Used YouTube on Android Auto, And Now I Understand Why Google Banned It

YouTube on Android Auto 15 photos
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution/YouTube screenshot
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Most of us can't imagine the Internet without YouTube, as Google's video-sharing platform has become integral to the WWW as we know it.
YouTube was born on the desktop but rapidly made its way to mobile devices, especially as smartphones eventually became so advanced they could replace a computer. Most people now use YouTube on their phones, and naturally, they take the video content with them wherever they go.

Including in their cars, that is. YouTube in the car is a very controversial topic, especially as Google and Apple block the service on Android Auto and CarPlay, respectively. You can still watch YouTube on your mobile device when traveling in a car, but if you connect the phone to the head unit to run Android Auto and CarPlay, the video platform is blocked.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand the reason. YouTube is all about watching video content while driving is all about keeping the eyes on the road. You can't watch YouTube when the vehicle is in motion, so such an application significantly increases the driver's distraction.

YouTube on Android Auto

Google's approach towards YouTube on Android Auto is debatable.

The search giant can theoretically allow YouTube on Android Auto when the vehicle isn't moving. Users would be able to watch video content while waiting to pick up the kids from school or charging the car's battery, as the driver's distraction would no longer matter.

Android Auto Coolwalk
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
Android Auto can automatically block YouTube when the car starts moving. The app has the necessary means to power this system, as it already uses a similar restriction for typing.

You can type an address in Waze when the car is not moving, but once you start driving, the keyboard is locked, and you must rely on voice input.

Google never commented on its plans to allow YouTube in the car, but the company already launched the app on Android Automotive, using the behavior mentioned above. The app continues to be banned on Android Auto, and after trying it a couple of times this week, I totally get Google's reasoning.

If you wonder how I managed to get YouTube up and running on Android Auto, I used a rooted Android phone with the right software. It shouldn't be too hard to do the same thing if you know where to look, as guides to run YouTube on Android Auto are all over the web.

You'd think that having YouTube in the car is a Godsend. In some ways, it is, especially if you spend a lot of time parking. You can watch your favorite shows, listen to music, play a podcast uploaded to YouTube, and so on, all without even touching your phone. The audio is routed through the car's speakers, like in the case of music apps.

Unfortunately, nobody can guarantee that you won't watch YouTube when you start driving. And this is probably the reason Google doesn't want to allow the app on Android Auto.

I used YouTube to watch a live TV channel while waiting in the parking lot to pick up my wife from work. Once I started the engine and wanted to leave the parking spot, I immediately realized how distracting YouTube can be. I looked at the screen two or three times only in the first seconds while putting the car in drive – this is some sort of mea culpa, but I'm a responsible guy; I shut down YouTube shortly afterward.

Android Auto Coolwalk
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
You probably think you're different and you can behave. You probably believe you'd only watch YouTube when the vehicle is parked and shut it down immediately when you start driving.

It won't happen.

Eventually, many people will still let the app run on the infotainment screen when they begin moving, and trust me, you'll be shocked to see how distracting watching YouTube in the car can be. Furthermore, the driver isn’t the only one who keeps looking at the screen, but everybody else in the car, too.

Google not allowing YouTube on Android Auto makes perfect sense, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the company give in eventually and unlock the app. Maybe it'll be a feature for premium accounts, and I'm certain the search giant will lock the app when the vehicle starts moving, but it'll still be a matter of time until people out there find ways to bypass these restrictions. After all, Google doesn't allow YouTube on Android Auto, and here we are talking about how dangerous the app can be after already bypassing the lock.

Apple also blocks video apps on CarPlay, and unlike Google's case, I highly doubt the iPhone maker will ever lift this restriction, especially because it has no interest in letting people use YouTube in the first place. The rest of the video apps, including Netflix, will also stay blocked for the time being, though the arrival of CarPlay 2.0 could change the rules of the game, at least for passengers' screens.
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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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