In May 2019, Google Assistant Driving Mode was announced to replace “Android Auto for phone screens”. The launch happened slowly, with the previous experience not disappearing until June. The assistant driving mode now loses Google Maps integration, significantly changing the experience to the point where it’s no longer an Android Auto replacement.
When Drive Mode was announced at I/O 2019, it looked like Assistant was being positioned to take over and provide more user-facing experiences. The UI presented at the time to replace phone-based Android Auto felt like a natural extension of the Snapshot Assistant flow and smart displays.
Google originally planned a summer 2019 launch, but that was significantly delayed. In the meantime, Google released “Android Auto for phone screens” as an interim measure, as the official Android Auto experience (on cars) had been redesigned and was no longer suitable for phone screens.
Assisted Driving Mode only arrived in November 2020. This initial availability was limited to Google Maps. The actual home screen and stream interface shown at I/O 2019 didn’t arrive until September 2021. Meanwhile, it wasn’t until Android 12 that “Android Auto for phone screens ” disappeared and could no longer be launched for new devices. Google then discontinued Android Auto for phone screens for everyone in June 2022.
Version 13.39 of the Google app, which is currently in beta, contains the following “sunset_message”:
The driving screen will be disabled on November 21, 2022; use Google Maps for future hands-free navigation.
“Driving screen” – as the company said 9to5Google today – refers to the Maps map that originally appeared at the top of the Driving View when navigation was active. This will go away next month and will no longer work on devices running the beta version of the Google app we checked out today.
Instead, Google is now asking people to use the driving-optimized full-screen mode found in the Google Maps app after starting driving directions.
If you launch Driving View today and enter a location in the search box, Google Maps opens. You should continue to use this interface where you get an Assistant button on the bottom left, while a launcher is on the right to quickly play YouTube Music, Google Podcasts, Play Books, and other compatible services.
Once in this user interface, there is no way to naturally return to the driving mode home screen. However, if you do this using the home screen icon shortcut, Google Maps will appear (third screenshot below) as a picture-in-picture (PiP) instead of a card that seamlessly integrates with music controls and call/text shortcuts.
This floating window creates a very poor user experience, although Google probably doesn’t want you to access PiP and Driving Mode at the same time.
Driving style today
With this change, Driving Mode is no longer a true alternative to Android Auto. It merely acts as a shortcut to Google Maps, while its only real use is for larger media controls.
This stems from the fact that Driving Mode was generally seen as a downgrade from Android Auto. It wasn’t as simple as tapping an “Android Auto” icon in the app launcher, though a home screen shortcut was eventually added, but remained deep in the app. experience.
Meanwhile, it also comes as Google Assistant slowly moves away from projects that aren’t solely focused on voice assistant functionality, as seen with the demise of Snapshot and the recent launch of Look and Talk. as well as Quick Phrases.
L : Android-Auto | A: User interface optimized for driving in Google Maps
Ben Schoon and Dylan Roussel contributed to this article.
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