Android Auto Makeover lets you watch YouTube in your car

Android Auto Makeover lets you watch YouTube in your car

A portrait photo of the new Android Auto

Updating Android Auto makes it easier to take care of your maps and messages while driving.
picture: Google

Android Auto in dash gets a much-needed update. During a session at its developer conference, Google introduced one rotationised interface for the Android-based car software. It includes a new split-screen mode that’s more scalable across different display types, as well as other small touches that will hopefully reduce the number of clicks required to find what you need behind the wheel.

If you’ve bought a car lately, you might have noticed that it’s getting harder to buy a model without a huge display between the driver’s and passenger’s seats. Large in-car screens seem to be becoming the norm with every new model. To follow trends, Google has redesigned Android Auto to make it easier to scale on any car display, regardless of manufacturer and screen orientation.

Split-screen mode is becoming the default way to operate Android Auto. It offers instant access to all the necessary functions on the same screen, so you don’t have to type around and switch apps while watching the road. The new Android Auto displays Google Maps and your media controls side-by-side in a window arrangement, just like you might split windows down the middle on a computer interface. The split-screen mode adapts to different screen sizes and takes into account the display orientation, such as landscape or portrait.

Check out how split screen mode appears on displays of different sizes.
gif: Google

Google has also made deeper integration with Assistant Android Auto. You’ll see more warnings and contextual suggestions pop up. Assistant also makes it easy to reach frequent contacts and provides smart answers when you need to react quickly and can’t touch your phone.

Having Google built into your car gives you an additional feature that might prove controversial depending on how you feel about in-car screens. Earlier this year, Google announced that it would allow people to watch YouTube on the built-in display once the vehicle is parked. It adds two new apps to the lineup, Tubi and Epix Now. Both offer loads of free video content to while away the time waiting in the car.

A photo of Android Auto with content you can view

Who doesn’t want to use their car’s screen to watch free movies and TV shows?
picture: Google

Soon a car near you

The new user interface works on a variety of screen sizes. But the way windows line up is entirely up to the automaker and how they arrange things. For example, I have a Subaru with an 11 inch display. Android Auto is only given half of the screen, however, as the other half takes care of Subaru’s proprietary controls, like the in-car HVAC. Google said it’s up to the OEM to define how much space Android Auto can take up.

The Android Auto update isn’t a total surprise. The rumblings about the new UI started last fall, and we had one real tease of the new look earlier this year. The new UI seems less distracting than the current UI, where apps can often take up the entire screen, requiring you to reach out and firmly press the back button to return to navigation.

The new Android Auto interface is rolling out to cars this summer. I look forward to trying out the new look. Hopefully it’s good enough that I can finally get over Google deprecating my favorite Android Auto phone app.

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