The Android Auto platform already lets Android users connect their phones to their car display, a handy capability when you want to use Google Maps to navigate or listen to music on your drive. Soon, starting with the latest Pixel and Samsung phones, you'll be able to make calls using WhatsApp with Android Auto.
Google announced the new capability on Thursday, along with several other new features and design upgrades. The Android Auto updates were first unveiled at CES, the world's largest tech conference. Carmakers and other companies involved in the auto industry have a significant and growing presence at CES.
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Fulfilling one of consumers' top requests for Android Auto, Google also announced that they're introducing a seekable progress bar for music and podcasts to the platform, so users can skip ahead in a song or episode.
The updated platform is also now making "smart" suggestions, such as a quick way to share your arrival time, missed call reminders, and offering on-screen shortcuts for replying to messages or calling favorite contacts.
Meanwhile, Google is bringing digital key sharing to Samsung phones soon, while Xiaomi users will be able to both use and share digital car keys later this year. Google already introduced digital key sharing across Pixel phones and iPhones.
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The new Android Auto design features three priorities for drivers: navigation, communication, and playing music or podcasts. To that end, Maps now appears on your display closer to the driver's seat, so it's easier to see. Additionally, the new media card includes the best of Material You to feature your favorite album art. There's also a new quick launcher that lets you quickly access recently used apps.
Google has also secured new partnerships with carmakers to increase the number of car brands that offer Google built-in. This service lets you use Google apps directly from the car screen without relying on a phone. Honda is offering Google built-in in the 2023 Accord Touring model, while brands such as Ford and Lincoln should introduce it later in the year.