Google aligned its latest announcement with the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S24 series, revealing that its Android Auto offering will soon be getting some choice updates to make it easier and less distracting for drivers to interact with their smartphones when behind the wheel.
Android Auto, which is the Google-powered version of Apple CarPlay and not the automotive OS on which a handful of modern carmakers base their infotainment offerings, enables Android smartphone users to gain access to a number of apps and features that would otherwise be out of bounds and potentially illegal to use when driving.
The recent updates harness the power of AI to summarize long messages or busy group chats, picking out the key points so the driver (and passengers) don’t have to listen to a robotic voice assistant reading out huge chunks of prose.
For example, if a friend eloquently messages about dinner plans, the system will now pick out key points, such as the restaurant, type of food and meeting time, saving the bother of listening to their amateur reviews or suggestions on tonight's specials.
Similarly, if your phone is pinging with a flurry of group messages, Android Auto can summarize the chat and then offer relevant replies and actions, without having to pick up your phone. This could be re-routing to a new location (decided in the group chat) or updating everyone with your ETA.
In addition to this, Google says Android Auto will soon reflect personalized design elements housed on the owner’s smartphone, such as wallpapers and icons, which will then appear on the infotainment display.
Opinion: driven from distraction
Anyone who has attempted to reply to messages via a favored in-vehicle voice assistant will know the pitfalls. Despite perfect diction, it is all too easy for the digital transcriber to get words, phrases and numbers wrong, only for the driver to have to start from scratch.
This inherent clunkiness is often just as distracting as looking at a phone screen, but Google’s upcoming updates will hopefully make things simple and easier.
The fact that AI highlights key points reduces the time it takes to ingest busy group messages and attempt to decipher what’s going on, while shortcut responses require one tap, as opposed to composing an entire message from scratch.
Similarly, automatically re-routing to a new suggested meeting point or updating an ETA with a single click reduces the amount of interaction with an infotainment system. Anything that keeps a driver’s eyes on the road is surely a good thing.