Google’s driving app ‘Android Auto’ now works as free standalone on phones

Google has vastly expanded the reach of its Android Auto software, making it available for use on Android users’ phones, instead of requiring a car equipped with it or an after-market device.

Android phone owners with OS 5.0 “Lollipop” or newer operating systems can now download the Auto app for free and use it via their touchscreen. Or they can connect their phone to compatible vehicles and use Auto on the vehicle’s display.

The app reportedly drains phone batteries a bit faster than Google Maps, and doesn’t run Google’s popular navigation app Waze.

Users cannot yet humiliate themselves by activating voice control with the phrase, “OK Google,” but that’s coming in the next several weeks, Google has said, according to The Verge.

To minimize driver distraction, Auto shows only four buttons on the lower screen when the app starts: a home button and buttons for Maps, phone calls and audio. Notification alerts are limited. Text messages can be heard and sent by voice. Menu and microphone are activated by tapping icons on the upper portion of the screen.

Here’s what else the app does, according to Google:

  • Automatically serves up suggested destinations, upcoming appointments and weather, on cards that “appear just when they’re needed”
  • Runs Google Maps, with voice-guided navigation and live traffic information
  • Streams music from a Google Play library
  • Allows users to make phone calls using only voice
  • Responds to hundreds of voice commands

Google rival Apple has announced no plans to make its driving software, CarPlay, available to stand alone in an iPhone operating system – the app requires the phone to be connected to the vehicle.

 

Photo: An attendee takes a selfie in front of Android mascots during the 2015 Google I/O conference in San Francisco (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

 

 

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