Last year, Google removed the Assistant Driving Mode Dashboard homescreen from Android, leaving a basic “Driving Mode” in the Maps app for drivers who like to use their phones as GPS navigation replacements.
Unfortunately, that too appears to be going away soon — even if Google hasn’t officially announced it.
A code dive into the latest Google app by 9to5Google has discovered a pair of curious strings that seem to relate to the feature’s imminent demise. “This view is going away in February,” reads one. “To call, message, or play media while navigating, tap the mic to use Assistant,” another reads.
The site surmizes this refers to Driving Mode: the big, friendly driving UI that appears when you start driving navigation within Google Maps. Once initiated, you get large buttons for easy interactions as well as quick access to to Google Assistant, Maps, and various music, podcast, audiobook and streaming apps.
That’s unexpected, as Google claimed most drivers were using this when justifying the end of Assistant Driving Mode Dashboard (demoed in the GIF below) back in 2022. As the 9to5Google explains, plenty of users found this to be a downgrade at the time.
Given the change hasn’t been made yet (9to5Google notes that the strings aren’t visible in the live version of the app), we’re in the dark as to Google’s reasoning for this upcoming change. But given improvements to driving voice inputs back in July, the company may want to simply remove the temptation of touch controls altogether, for a safer driving experience.
That’s probably a sensible change overall. While most drivers are conscientious enough to only press buttons on their mounted phone when safe to do so (stuck in gridlock, at traffic lights or parked, say), it only takes one unsafe driver to cause an accident, potentially impacting others.
All the same, safe drivers who dislike using voice assistants for privacy or reliability reasons will be disappointed to see touch controls going away. If you find yourself in this boat, you may want to make sure your next car has Android Auto built in.
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Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.