Android Auto

What is Android Auto?

Android Auto casts a Google Now interface onto your car’s infotainment display via USB. It’s not the same as mirroring your phone onto the car display using HDMI, as the vehicle’s touch screen, steering wheel controls, buttons and control knobs remain functional when using Android Auto.

There’s still limitations on app support though. Only Google approved apps with necessary driver-safety measures in place can take advantage of the Android Auto user interface.

Audio is sent via USB for music with no loss in sound quality, unlike with Bluetooth audio streaming. Phone calls are handled via Bluetooth hands-free.

Which cars support Android Auto?

How does one get Google Maps in the car? Right now, you can buy brand new cars with the necessary technology in place to take advantage of Android Auto. Some existing cars may be updated down the road.

A total of 40 automakers are selling new cars in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, the UK and the US with Android Auto support.

GMC Sierra Denali

Cadillac and Chevy announced that all of its new models will come standard with Android Auto while Audi, Honda, Kia, Hyundai and others are rolling out support with each new vehicle introduction or mid-cycle refresh.

Chrysler pledged support for Android Auto with its next-generation Uconnect infotainment system, but hasn’t confirmed which vehicles will have it. Ford promised all 2017 model year cars with SYNC 3 will gain support for Android Auto, starting with the refreshed Escape crossover. Existing 2016 models with SYNC 3 will get a software update later this year for the feature.

Volkswagen supports Android Auto on most of its current lineup, with the exception of the Touareg and Eos, two of the oldest models in its lineup.

Android Auto aftermarket solutions

Android Auto is a perk if you’re already buying a car, but what if you’re not in the market for new wheels or just started making monthly payments on a long-term lease?

Android Auto aftermarket
Expect the same aftermarket options as Apple CarPlay for older cars

That’s where stereo manufacturers come in with Android Auto aftermarket head units. JBL, JVC, Kenwood and Pioneer plan to save the day on your dated ride.

Android Auto phone compatibility

Android Auto requires a smartphone with Android 5.0 Lollipop or newer. It’s likely an easier process than upgrading to a new car, unless your carrier is being stubborn. Then it’s way harder.

The patient wait for Android updates gives you reason to check out the latest Android phones, which come with Marshmallow and Android Auto compatibility out of the gate, like the Nexus 6P, Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 Edge and LG G5.

Android Auto
Works with Android 5.0 Lollipop phones like this Nexus 5

I used the older Nexus 5 to run through the Android Auto demo, so I can confirm it works just as well on older Android 5.0 Lollipop hardware too.

Beyond that, all it takes is plugging a micro USB-to-USB cable into the phone and car’s USB port. The first time the phone is connected to the car, the Android Auto app will ask if you want to enable Android Auto on the phone.

Once you click the agree button, the car-stylized interface is projected onto the in-dash screen almost instantly and the phone automatically pairs to the car via Bluetooth.

Can I add it to my factory system?

You’re typically stuck with the software that ships with your factory system most of the time. However, Ford, Hyundai and Kia are offering free software upgrades to previous model year vehicles that adds Android Auto connectivity.

These companies announced new model year vehicles with Android Auto, but previous model year vehicles came with the same infotainment system hardware. Hyundai and Kia released free software updates for select 2014 and newer vehicles while Ford is working on bringing Android Auto to vehicles with SYNC 3 later this year.

If your car isn’t in Ford, Hyundai or Kia’s list, new hardware is required, unfortunately.