What exactly is Android Auto and what does it do?

What exactly is Android Auto and what does it do?

Top Gear Tips

Everything you need to know about this Google-based car tech

When it comes to wanting the navigation, audio choices and phone connectivity we get on our smart devices in our cars, why reinvent the wheel? Like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto is a phone mirroring app, allowing drivers to have a smoother in-cab experience on the road. This works in the UK, but also in other countries.

Automakers aren’t historically known for delivering amazing infotainment experiences. They’re good at building pretty new cars, but over the past two decades they’ve been driven to form – perhaps partly reluctant – partnerships with these beastly Silicon Valley techbods.

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Why reluctant? We have all come to appreciate our value as consumers; we are the product. Our data, where we travel, what we listen to, the routes we take, the areas we visit are key information that tech companies love to monetize.


Android Auto lets drivers use their phone’s apps on the car’s display screen with minimal distraction. By being able to access the apps you already know, it is expected that journeys will be safer. Android Auto claims to help drivers “stay focused, connected and entertained”. It also lets drivers use Google Assistant, which they’re probably more accustomed to than the car brand’s digital voice assistant.

How do I connect Android Auto to my car?

You must have an Android handset with a data SIM connection, running at least Android 8.0. If your car has Android Auto integration, you’ll connect either via a high-quality USB data cable, via a 5G wifi connection to the infotainment system or with Bluetooth.

What’s the difference between Android Auto and Google’s Driving Assistant mode?

Not all new cars have built-in Android Auto, so for drivers without a way to connect their phone to their car in this way, Google’s Driving Assistant mode allows drivers to use their handset as a display screen to navigation apps like Waze and audio apps like Audible, Spotify, Tidal and (ha-dah!) Google Music.

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You have to be careful though. As of July 2022, UK mobile phone legislation means you can’t touch your smartphone at all while driving.

Do I need an app for Android Auto?

Yes, you need to download the Android Auto app to your handset and then this will communicate with the app which is on the car’s software platform. You can download it for free from the Google Play Store. There is no monthly charge to use Android Auto, although there may be some in the future.

What if I can’t connect Android Auto?

If you’ve got the phone, the car, and the app and you’re still struggling to connect Android Auto… take a breather. It will work, but like all the best tech advice you’ve ever received, you may have to turn things off and on again.

Additionally, Android Auto uses your phone’s sensor to determine if you’re on the go. It won’t connect if you’re traveling, even if your passenger is the one handling the phone, while you keep your eyes on the road.

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