I just had my first ex­pe­ri­ence with An­droid Au­to and I sup­pose there are lots of oth­er peo­ple who haven’t been there yet, so a few words might be use­ful. Short for­m: Rough around the edges, but super-helpful.

What with my job, I some­times have to trav­el be­tween Van­cou­ver and down­town Seat­tle; all the op­tions are lousy. Driv­ing isn’t my fa­vorite but some­times it hap­pen­s. Re­cent­ly I rent­ed a car for the pur­pose; re­served the stan­dard corporate-guidance mini­box but they were over­run with sum­mer tourists and, threat­ened with a long wait for the right car, I be­came That Guy you want out of your face. So they picked the top key off the stack and gave a brand new Dodge Charg­er with An­droid Au­to (here­inafter AA).

Dodge Charger

What a ridicu­lous car. It has mus­cle bulges on its mus­cle bulges. No­body would call it ag­ile; stomp the gas and it takes a few mo­ments to make sure you re­al­ly meant it. But then, oh my good­ness it gets down and boo­gies, putting all those bulges to work. I had great fun blast­ing through gaps in Seattle’s in­fa­mous perma-jam. Al­so, the seats were com­fy.

Would I buy one… Are you kid­ding me? But thanks to Na­tion­al for the im­promp­tu up­grade.

But I di­gress · Back to An­droid Au­to. Once I plugged in the USB, my Pix­el hooked up to the car right away; all I had to do was tap “OK” a few times.

Android Auto screenie

I used it to play mu­sic, send and re­ceive phone calls and texts (with Sig­nal of course), nav­i­gate, and lis­ten to a ball game.

On bal­ance, it works pret­ty well, al­beit with rough edges. Here’s what you need to know about con­vers­ing with AA: Your an­swers should echo the ques­tion­s. For ex­am­ple, if you get a mes­sage and AA asks you if you want to re­spond, don’t say “Yes”, say “Respond”.

Amus­ing­ly, I got a front-row seat for this bug­fix; on Ju­ly 16th I couldn’t get tex­ting to work, but it was fine on the 18th.

Maps · Google Maps are pret­ty great and so are AA’s. The UI could use a lit­tle pol­ish­ing; if I say “OK Google, di­rec­tions home.” and there’s on­ly re­al­ly sane choice, don’t make me tap the screen, just go there.

The re­al pleas­ant sur­prise was when I sort of lost con­text on where I was and how far I had to go. I pulled over and dis­cov­ered I could ac­tu­al­ly pinch, zoom, and ro­tate the on-screen map. Im­pres­sive!

Mu­sic · This was my fave. “OK Google, play Led Zeppelin.” “OK Google, play Rough Mix.” “OK Google, play Dryclean­er from Des Moines”. Some­times it takes a sur­pris­ing amount of time to think it over, but I got­ta say, it nev­er missed. Now, I didn’t try any clas­si­cal choic­es, be­cause af­ter all it was a Dodge Charg­er.

All this pre­sup­pos­es you have Google Mu­sic set up, which I strong­ly rec­om­mend; it’s free and good, what’s not to like?

What else? · Wel­l, there are lots of apps, but I’m not see­ing any­thing that’s mak­ing me breathe hard. Wel­l, Skype could be handy. Al­so, I wouldn’t mind hav­ing a voice read­ing my Twit­ter stream when there’s hot news break­ing. But I have to say that map­s, mu­sic, phone, and text hit a huge 80/20 point.

Take-aways ·

  1. Big­ger screens are bet­ter. The Charger’s was on­ly OK, which left AA sort of cramped, sur­round­ed by the Charger’s built-in ap­pa­ra­tus for ra­dio, climate-control, and so on.

  2. I think I need AA in my next car.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: tedder (Jul 22 2017, at 12:08)

Bought a car that happens to have it. I use AA, the other human uses Apple. Certainly it's better than the built-in voice recognition and maps/routing. I mostly play from Pocket Casts if I'm in the car alone.


From: Eric Hanchrow (Jul 22 2017, at 12:13)

Ha, you're the second person I've run into in 30 years who knows "Rough Mix".

I used to think that I'd recognize Charlie Watts' drumming anywhere, and then learned that it's him on "My Baby Gives It Away", and I'd not noticed. Ah well.

I personally found Android Auto confusing -- gave it a grumpy two-star review.


From: David Magda (Jul 23 2017, at 12:10)

You may not want to pair your phone with your rental car:

* http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/digital-data-left-in-cars-1.3948659

* https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/komando/2015/07/03/komando-car-rental-mistakes/29614165/

* https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/what-your-phone-telling-your-rental-car


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July 22, 2017
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