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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