Android Auto's future: Google teases new features as Volvo adds Maps, Play Store

Android Auto is getting new features, while Google partner Volvo unveils its new Android infotainment system.

Video: Google Pixel, Nexus devices get Android Auto wireless support.

Google is bringing design, search, and messaging updates to Android Auto, while Volvo has unveiled plans to bring the Play Store, Google Assistant, and Google Maps to its new Android-based infotainment system.

Google and Volvo are making progress on a partnership announced at last year's I/O conference to put Android and Play Store apps directly into vehicles, so that Volvo drivers can have an Android Auto experience even in the absence of an Android phone.

Google unveiled its Android Auto mobile app in 2015, to enable drivers to use their Android phones via their car's in-dash information and entertainment head unit.

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Volvo says its future Android-based Sensus infotainment system will embed Google apps and services in the vehicle, including Google Assistant and the Play Store, along with thousands of car-optimized Android apps.

Volvo will also replace its own navigation system with Google Maps, bringing real-time traffic and up-to-date mapping information to the dash.

Volvo drivers will be able to use Google Assistant to control apps, respond to messages and adjust car features, such as climate control. However, the new integration won't be available until a "couple of years" from now, according to Volvo.

App developers would gain by being able to deliver apps not just to existing Android Auto users but to drivers with Android embedded in vehicles too.

While vehicle makers have resisted giving full control over infotainment systems to Google and Apple, Volvo reckons bringing Android into its vehicles will boost its own apps and connected services.

Ahead of its session on Android automotive at I/O today, Google revealed a few updates specific to Android Auto.

Google is giving developers new visual templates to help them design apps for use on infotainment systems. Google promises the templates will help bring browsable content to the fore the instant users open a music app, making it easier to select songs or podcasts.

Media apps such as Spotify can now integrate search results directly into Android Auto, making it easier for drivers to find related tracks to the one currently being played. Android Auto is also getting Rich Communication Services, or RCS, support and group-messaging support via Google Assistant.

Developers at I/O can see a preview of Volvo's future infotainment system in the current XC40, as well how Google's apps and popular messaging and music apps have been adapted for in-car use.

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Now Android Auto supports group messaging and RCS, so drivers can communicate with colleagues and friends while at the wheel.

Image: Google

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