The Launch of Google Maps Driving Mode Comes with Bad News for Some Users

The new Google Maps driving mode 6 photos
Photo: Google
Driving mode dashboard viewDriving mode dashboard viewDriving mode dashboard viewDriving mode dashboard viewDriving mode dashboard view
Android Auto for phones has long been a very neat way to expand the Android experience beyond the mobile device and bring it right behind the wheel without the need for a dedicated head unit.
In theory, Android Auto for phones was just the perfect way to convert a mobile device into an ad-hoc head unit, as it provided users with a car-optimized experience similar to the one available in the fully-featured version of Android Auto.

Google, however, has decided to give up on Android Auto for phones and replace it with an all-new driving mode bundled with Google Maps and powered by Google Assistant.

At some level, the whole thing makes sense, though for some users out there, this change of plans only causes more confusion especially because the driving mode is clearly based on Android Auto for phones in all regards.

But with the driving mode, Google can offer a new-generation experience adapted to the modern driver as a native feature without the need for any other configuration or download. By bundling the driving mode with Google Maps and Google Assistant, the only thing users need to do is to just say “Hey, Google, let’s drive,” with the app to then launch automatically on their mobile devices.

Driving mode dashboard view
Photo: Google
The migration from Android Auto for phones to the new driving mode will take place with the release of Android 12, and Google itself confirmed the launch of this feature will happen “in the coming weeks.

However, not everybody will be getting the new driving mode, as it’ll only be available in a handful of languages and countries.

First of all, there’s the obvious English support, with the driving mode to go live in the United States, Australia, Canada, Ireland, India, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. Then, Google says it’ll support the driving mode in German, Spanish for users in Spain and Mexico, French, and Italian.

No other languages would be supported, or at least, not at first, though Google didn’t say anything about a possible expansion to other countries at a later time.

In other words, if you plan to use the driving mode in a different language or country than the ones mentioned above, you’re pretty much out of luck. And here’s where the confusion is getting worse.

Driving mode dashboard view
Photo: Google
Will Android Auto for phones continue to be available in these countries? This is highly unlikely, so in theory, it looks like users who want to use the driving mode in another region would just have to stick with English (or any other supported language mentioned above) and therefore get this feature on their devices. Otherwise, the driving mode won’t be supported.

This isn’t necessarily the most convenient solution if you want a native and localized experience, but on the other hand, it’s no different from what happened in the Android Auto world until recently.

The fully-featured version of Android Auto has initially been offered only in a handful of countries, and users elsewhere turned to the standalone APK installer to get the app on their devices, obviously using it in English. Google eventually changed its mind and officially launched Android Auto in many other regions across the planet, so hopefully, the same will happen with the driving mode as well.

For the time being, the driving mode is still available as a preview in many of the countries mentioned above, so you can try it out on your device before the official launch.

Google has recently announced the driving mode is getting tappable cards for more straightforward navigation, and without a doubt, more and more features would be added at a later time after the official launch takes place for users in the supported countries.
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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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