If you've read any of my articles on Android Auto, you'll know that my thoughts - for the sake of brevity - are that it's just kind of OK. This is because Android Auto's philosophy of projection via smartphone over USB and Bluetooth is inherently limited in what it can actually do with a vehicle. And so, many of you have asked on Auto articles I've written in the past: "Why doesn't Google just build an Android Car OS?" WhileGoogle may not have been listening per se, they definitely had the same idea, and have created just that. You can also check out our video quickly going over the concept below.
One of the biggest challenges to creating good apps for Android Auto has been actually testing the experience. Many independent developers can't afford to purchase brand new cars with Auto built-in, and aftermarket head units won't fit in most recently manufactured cars without heavy modification, and most of those units aren't very good anyway. When the Auto SDK came out, it included simulators that could be used for basic testing of just the messaging and media browser interfaces, but even these weren't good substitutes for the real thing. Today, Google released the Android Auto Desktop Head Unit, a functioning implementation of the Android Auto platform that runs right on a desktop or laptop.
Are all the newer cars on the street making your ride jealous? Okay, your car doesn't have to be old to lack the OnStar functionality that some vehicles offer, allowing owners to track stolen vehicles or determine why their Check Engine light is on. Regardless, there are ways to give your car these features, and one of them now comes from Verizon.
Today the carrier has announced Hum. For $15 a month (and $13 for any additional vehicles), Verizon will send you a two-piece kit with built-in GPS that can help law enforcement find your stolen vehicle or point you towards your last parking spot.
Google is working on its own in-car Android experience that's only just now starting to trickle into vehicles. The downside is that it's going to cost you either the price of a new car or something in the vicinity of $1,000. Some folks would prefer something cheaper, more hands-on, if you will. This one guy has taken to Reddit to show off the experience he's managed to throw together in his Toyota Prius using a 2013 Nexus 7.
Let's point out the obvious first. No, the hardware isn't as smooth as Android Auto. The Nexus 7 covers up some of the vehicle's buttons, and the charging cable is clearly visible.
When you connect your HTC phone to a MirrorLink-enabled infotainment system using a cord, you will be able to navigate the device using your car's dashboard buttons. The phone will use HTC's car-friendly interface, which organizes the apps you're likely to use while driving into a grid.
Automatic is an interesting hardware-software combo that makes information from your vehicle accessible on your phone via an SDK and a series of apps. It's an interesting idea (even if the nondescript name makes it nearly impossible to Google for), and thanks to a standard OBD-Bluetooth setup and a relatively decentralized structure, it doesn't require any subscription fees. You do have to buy the adaptor, of course, and it's relatively pricey at $99.95. But right now you can grab a 20% discount.
Not too long ago, I took a look at the Griffin iTrip AUX Bluetooth dongle. It was a solid product that delivered on its goal of allowing people to connect over Bluetooth in cars that don't have the functionality built-in. But at $49.99, it's a little on the pricey side. For that cost, you can get a Kinivo BTC455 that not only delivers the same capability, it supports two devices at once, hands-free calls, and controlling music playback. Frankly, it's more bang for buck.
That said, after trying out the Kinivo BTC455, I occasionally longed for the Griffin iTrip AUX. Let me tell you why.
Even though many of Waze's features for traffic and incident reporting have been implemented in Google Maps over the past months, the standalone app remains available for those who prefer it and have grown used to it. However, while Google Maps integrates with Google Now and has handy homescreen shortcuts, Waze still lacks an easy way to launch the app directly into a search or navigation. That's the shortcoming that Shortcuts for Waze aims to solve.
The app only integrates with the Shortcut creation menu on your homescreen (and in other apps that make use of it) and lets you pick a destination to create a direct shortcut for it.
Coming a few days after Hyundai's announcement, Viper has shared its plan to bring remote start and other functionality to both Android Wear and the Apple Watch. This means that anyone willing to have the technology installed can take advantage of the feature, rather than wait around for their manufacturer to jump on board. The goods are coming as part of Viper SmartStart 4.0.
Viper is known for providing car alarms and remote start systems, which you can get from auto shops or your local Best Buy. It already lets users start, lock, unlock, and track their cars through a mobile app available in the Play Store, but soon people with Android Wear watches will be able to perform the same tasks from their wrists.
The American dream of owning a car is on the decline, and depending on which part of the country you live in, there's no shortage of ways to get from point A to point B without reaching for your own set of car keys. Getaround is one company that has carved a niche for itself, allowing drivers to rent vehicles from private owners, who are able to set their own rental price. This car-sharing approach, as opposed to ride-sharing (think Lyft or Uber), helps cut down on the volume of cars on the road by reducing the number that need to be purchased in the first place.