Google has been ramping up its efforts to get people to stop driving with a wheel in one hand and a smartphone in the other. Many of the things in Google's driving experience are getting an upgrade, if not an entirely new interface, including the classic Android Auto, the phone-oriented Assistant driving mode, and even the upcoming Android Automotive.
Despite having a worldwide presence, Google can often be depressingly myopic when it comes to thinking of other countries. Case in point: Android Auto has been around for six years, and only now is Google thinking about optimizing Maps for countries where people drive on the left (with a car's steering wheel on the right), representing more than a billion people.
One of the little Google features we probably all take for granted is being able to easily find services near to us via Maps, Assistant, Search, etc. Unfortunately, some Android Auto users have been encountering a bug that meant searching for anything "near me" or "nearby" would return results close to the users' homes, rather than their current location. Thankfully, Google says it's rolled out a fix.
Google Maps is generally pretty darn great, but it's always good to have alternatives. There have been a variety of new navigation tools for the Android Auto system over the last few months, including Waze, TomTom, and Gaia, all taking advantage of new third-party API options. The latest is Yandex.Maps, the popular mapping app from Russia-based Yandex.
We've heard it all along, Android Auto is designed around keeping your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. While that doesn't always work out in practice, many of the changes to the Auto interface are at least intended to streamline your interactions with the screen. It looks like Google may have identified people were spending too much time browsing for music and podcasts, because a new shortcut now provides automatic suggestions that can get you listening without a lot of tapping.
It took several years for Google to allow Android Auto head units to run third-party navigation apps instead of its own Maps service. As expected, Waze was the first on board, then more followed suit, including TomTom NaviGO. But all of those are made for typical route-following drivers. What if you want to take your 4x4 on an off-road adventure? You'd need a specialized app for that, like Gaia, and now it's just landed on Auto.