Google announces new AI-powered Android Auto features to reduce driver distraction

Android Auto
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Google is harnessing the power of AI to make it easier and less distracting for drivers to communicate with their smartphones when on the road. The search giant timed its latest announcement with the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S24 series this week.

Android Auto, Google's answer to Apple CarPlay, is designed to take all the important, car-friendly features from your phone and put it front and center on your car's central display. But anyone who's tried to reply to a message behind the wheel will be all too familiar with the pitfalls of in-vehicle voice assistants. Getting a flood of group chat messages or wrestling with clunky digital transcribers can often be just as distracting as looking at a phone screen. 

Google’s upcoming Android Auto updates aim to tackle this very problem. Android Auto will soon use AI to automatically summarize long texts or busy group chats while you're driving so that your focus stays on the road instead of whatever's unfolding on your phone. As with other AI-powered tech, it'll also be able to suggest relevant actions and replies and execute them as well without you ever having to pick up your phone.

For example, if a friend texts you about lunch plans, Android Auto can relay key information such as the restaurant location and meet-up time, quickly shoot over your estimated time of arrival, or call your friend. Then it's just a matter of tapping once to navigate to the location they shared, and voilà.

It all sounds like a pretty common-sense use case for AI. Being able to automatically re-route to a new meeting point or send out an ETA with a single click means less time concentrating on your car's central display instead of the road. And there's no doubt that fewer distracted drivers behind the wheel is a good thing. 

That's not the only update heading for Android Auto, though. It will soon import personalized design elements housed on the owner's smartphone, such as wallpaper and icons, to create "an even more seamless transition and consistent experience from your phone to your car," said Google in a company blog post this week.

While Android Auto does currently offer support for wallpapers, the application limits users to a selection of backgrounds pre-loaded by Google. Users have been asking Google to make third-party wallpapers available on Android Auto for years so they can use the backgrounds stored on their phones while driving. With this update, both your smartphone and car's central display will now share the same wallpaper and stock icon designs when the feature is enabled.

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Alyse Stanley
News Editor

Alyse Stanley is a news editor at Tom’s Guide overseeing weekend coverage and writing about the latest in tech, gaming and entertainment.

Prior to joining Tom’s Guide, Alyse worked as an editor for the Washington Post’s sunsetted video game section, Launcher. She previously led Gizmodo’s weekend news desk, where she covered breaking tech news — everything from the latest spec rumors and gadget launches to social media policy and cybersecurity threats.  She has also written game reviews and features as a freelance reporter for outlets like Polygon, Unwinnable, and Rock, Paper, Shotgun. She’s a big fan of horror movies, cartoons, and miniature painting.