Android Auto brings Google Now to cars, challenges Apple CarPlay to the core (VIDEO)

By Alexandra Burlacu | Jun 26, 2014 08:51 AM EDT

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The big Google I/O 2014 developer conference kicked off on Wednesday, June 25, and Android Auto was among the stars of the show.

Android Auto is widely seen as Google's answer to Apple's recently-launched CarPlay and brings a redesigned, car-specific interface for Android. The platform is contextually aware, which means that it can detect when you're in the car and it delivers a simplified version - the new Android L release - designed to reduce distraction.

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Simply put, Android Auto runs on your mobile device, but will also mirror its interface onto a touchscreen in the car's dashboard, allowing users to interact with Android either by using the touchscreen or by giving voice commands.

"It's one thing to be able to simply check your wrist for what you need when you're on the go. But what about when you're in your car? Many of us want to stay connected even while driving. Getting directions, traffic updates, finding just the right music playlist. But using our phones while at the wheel is simply unsafe," Google touts in a blog post on June 25.

"Android Auto, which we showed to developers today, takes care of that for you, just connect your Android phone to a car with Android Auto, and you'll have what you need at your fingertips such as turn-by-turn navigation from Google Maps, your curated playlists and radio stations through Play Music, simple-to-use voice search, and reminders from Google Now. This is accessible through your car's controls, and more importantly, is far safer than fumbling around with your phone. You'll start to see Android Auto in cars later this year."

The new Android Auto sports a card-based interface that looks very familiar, as it basically looks like Google Now for the car. When it connects to your car's dashboard display, it will automatically show relevant information for your driving based on what Google and Google Now know about your habits and schedule. If it's near the time you usually go home, for instance, it will show you info about your commute home, complete with a travel time estimate. If you look at the bottom of the screen, you'll find useful shortcuts that allow you to seamlessly jump between navigation, phone, music, and so on.

Moreover, you will also be able to tap a steering wheel or on-screen button and utter voice commands to Android Auto if you want to access Google Maps Navigation, search for a destination or a contact, or access your messages and phone dialer. Users can even speak to reply to texts and emails using Google's voice input and text-to-speech, ask Android Auto to navigate to the nearest restaurant, or play a song you want.

According to Google, as many as 40 automakers and suppliers part of the Open Automotive Alliance are already on board with Android Auto. To learn more about this neat new service, check out the video below or head over to the Android Auto website at this link.

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