Wallpapers aren't the only new thing rolling out to Android Auto users this week, Google is also turning on some handy features to simplify activities while you're driving. Users can now add custom shortcuts to the launcher to quickly call pre-selected contacts or activate Google Assistant commands. Along with this, Google Assistant routines are available again after more than two years since they mysteriously stopped working through Auto.

If you were an Auto user back in mid-2018, you may have actually had the opportunity to use Google Assistant routines while driving. The feature worked for a while, but it was quietly disabled in October of that year. A little over a year later, Google acknowledged this, but didn't give any confirmation that a fix was planned. However, it appears that things have started working again.

Shortcuts solve one of the biggest problems with Android Auto: Giving voice commands when you can't give or rely on voice commands. Whether it's making a call to your friends with names like Isla and Saoirse, navigating to a complicated street address, or simply giving basic commands while you've got a sleeping passenger, there are times you can't rely on speaking to the Google Assistant to get some things done. Now you can work around the problem by creating shortcuts.

Adding a custom shortcut is as simple as opening the Android Auto settings (most people will probably want to open the Settings app and search for "Auto"), tap Customize launcher, then Add a shortcut. The options are limited to calling pre-selected contacts or activating Google Assistant commands, but the latter does give you a lot of flexibility. Now you can automate common tasks and simplify your driving activities.

Setting up a shortcut to call somebody is as simple as picking an entry from your contact list, but an Assistant action gives you the option to enter freeform commands. While you have the option to enter single phrases to get something done, you can also take advantage of the newly re-enabled multi-step routines you've customized on your phone to do quite a bit more.

This should enable quite a bit of automation if you take the time to prepare actions ahead of time. Common options might involve telling your Nest thermostat to start heating your home, navigating to an address, sending messages, and much more.

All of these features appear to have rolled out to everybody over the last day or so. If you're not seeing them yet, try restarting your phone or update the Android Auto app.

Android Auto
Android Auto
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free