Android Auto getting big upgrades to take on Apple CarPlay — here’s what’s new

android auto bmw ix
(Image credit: Google/BMW)

Android Auto has been an invaluable tool for drivers, and today at Google I/O 2021 we’ve just had a glimpse of what’s coming soon.

Changes are coming to both Android Auto and Android Automotive OS, the version of Android that’s built directly into a car’s infotainment system. Here’s everything we just found out about what’s happening next.

Android Auto

According to Google, Android Auto is now available on over 100 million cars across the planet, and is supported by almost every major car maker that has cars on the road. That includes Porsche, which Google has just announced will be shipping the 2022 Porsche 911 with Android Auto when it goes on sale later this year.

As useful as Android Auto is, it could always be better. So Google has been working on expanding the wireless capabilities of the system, because having to plug your phone into the car all the time isn’t particularly fun. 

android auto bmw ix

(Image credit: BMW/Google)

Google’s also going to integrate Android Auto into cars’ instrument clusters, beginning with the BMW iX. That way drivers can see and use their phone by glancing down in front of them, and not by looking over to a screen in the middle of the car.

Android Automotive OS

Android Automotive OS is much newer than Android Auto, and offers a lot of the same apps and experiences on your car without plugging in your phone. It’s the same Android you’d get on a phone or tablet, just running on a car.

GMC Hummer EV android automotive

(Image credit: Google/Hummer)

The likes of the Polestar 2, Volvo XC40 Recharge and Volvo X60 already have access to Android Automotive right now. Google is also promising that an additional 10 cars will have access by the end of 2021, including the GMC Hummer EV.

But a system is nothing without apps, so Google has recently made the Android for Cars app library available through its Jetpack suite. Developers have already been able to use Jetpack to make their apps compatible with Android Auto, and now Google is extending that support to Android Automotive as well.

That means it’ll be easier for developers to build apps that can work across systems, and are compatible with Android phones, Android Auto and Android Automotive. Obviously, the easier it is for them, the better it’ll be for users, who get access to a larger library of apps in their cars.

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.