Google announced Android Auto at Google I/O 2014, but it didn’t launch on devices until the following year. Getting support in cars, however, took even longer. Slowly but surely, most major automakers have agreed to let Google run its car-friendly Android in their vehicles, but Toyota has famously refused Google’s advances. A new report claims that Toyota is finally ready to play ball, though.
Android Auto is available on virtually all Android devices running 5.0 Lollipop or higher. The in-car UI doesn’t actually run on the car itself. Instead, the phone renders the UI and pushes it over USB to the vehicle’s display. This is the same approach Apple uses for CarPlay. It can be a little clunky at times, but Android Auto has the advantage of immediate access to the data on your phone because it is your smartphone.
Automakers don’t have to deal with the development or integrations with these mobile in-car systems, but it could cost them when it comes to navigation upgrades and brand awareness. Still, most companies got on board with Apple and Google rather quickly. Android Auto works on vehicles from Honda, Nissan, Ford, Audi, and dozens more. Toyota has been the most high-profile holdout.
Toyota is protective of its infotainment system in cars, citing safety and privacy concerns with Android Auto. It only granted access to Apple in January of this year. Although, the safety and privacy line doesn’t make a lot of sense here. Android Auto isn’t running on the car, and it doesn’t have access to any vehicle telemetry data. Google included a vehicle tab in Android Auto, but so far, no automaker has wanted to pipe its data into it. As for safety, Android Auto is probably far safer than native in-car experiences. It follows NHTSA rules for driving interactions, which can be frustratingly restrictive at times. Applications are limited to audio, maps, and messaging. The delay probably comes down to money.
Neither Toyota nor Google has confirmed Android Auto integrations yet. Toyota acknowledges consumer demand for Android Auto — the majority of smartphones run Google’s software. It only makes sense people would want their car to play nicely with the one device they always have in their pockets when they leave the house. Google has declined to comment.
Sources tell Bloomberg that an official announcement could come as soon as October. Currently, there’s no entry on the Android Auto website for Toyota. Even after Toyota adds support, you’ll probably have to buy a new car to get Android Auto. A few recent vehicles could get software updates that enable the feature, but that’s far from certain.
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