Google's Android Auto Drives Toward the Connected Car

Google today announced the availability of the first Android Auto APIs. It looks like Google is easing into the auto market, as it released just two APIs for developers. Despite the timid start, Android Auto will lead the way to a more interactive in-car app experience, joining a larger movement toward the connected car

The APIs made available today target two use cases: audio apps and messaging apps. According to Google, audio apps tweaked with the Android Auto API will allow drivers to browse and play back the audio from their music, news and podcasting apps directly through the car's stereo system. Messaging apps will work in a similar fashion. Messaging tools that send and receive messages will be able to read incoming notifications aloud, as well as allow drivers to respond via voice dictation. Google noted that it is already working with well-known music and messaging apps in order to bring them to cars faster. They include iHeartRadio, NPR, Pandora, Spotify, TextMe and WhatsApp. 

AndroidAuto

Google first showed off Android Auto in June. It is meant to help smartphone owners connect their Android devices to a compatible vehicle and access their apps and content in a safe and easy manner. Android Auto lets developers tap their apps directly into cars' head unit displays, as well as allow for interactions triggered by steering wheel buttons. Google's user interface guidelines should help developers create apps that are easy to use in the car. 

According to Google, developers who use the Android Auto APIs will be able to extend their Android 5.0 Lollipop apps to all compatible cars without having to jump through model-specific variations. Google says this means developers can target a wide range of carmakers, models and regions.

In order to spur developer interest, Google published a Getting Started guide that contains the basics with respect to UX design. Google warned, however, that though the Android Auto APIs are available, developers can't publish Android Auto-compatible apps just yet. It said more APIs will be available down the road (pun intended), and Google will let developers know when they can publish their Android Auto apps. 

Right now, the list of cars that support Android Auto is minimal. Only a few carmakers have said they'll support the standard, which competes with Apple's forthcoming car platform. Despite the inability to publish Android Auto apps and the lack of compatible vehicles, this opens new doors for developers and offers to take them on an interesting journey.

Eric Zeman I am a journalist who covers the mobile telecommunications industry. I freelance for ProgrammableWeb and other online properties.

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