Like many Johannesburg residents, I spend a lot of time driving to and from work.
While this is only a 30-minute commute, having a Bluetooth connection and smartphone mount in my vehicle makes it easy to play music, listen to podcasts, and navigate – making the ride more pleasant.
These features are great to liven up any long drive or when travelling to new locations, too, but they are not perfect.
When using a smartphone which is mounted on your dashboard, it can still be difficult and unsafe to read messages, select songs, or edit your navigation route.
The answer to this problem would be a dedicated infotainment system with a large screen and integrated controls, but this is unfortunately not available in every vehicle.
Fortunately, there is Android Auto, which turns your smartphone interface into a layout designed for driving and enables a ton of useful features.
How to install
It is important to note that any type of distraction while driving can potentially endanger your life as well as those of others on the road, and we do not recommend that drivers use their smartphones when they drive.
Installing Android Auto is as simple as downloading the application from the Google Play Store if you live in a country where the software is supported.
South Africans were previously forced to download the APK manually from third-party websites as recently as 2018, but Google has now made the Android Auto app available on the Play Store locally.
Users can navigate to the Android Auto store page to get the application, and they will then be able to set up their driving interface.
Once installed, the Android Auto app will ask for a number of permissions, which you should enable if you want to have access to all of the app’s features.
You can also set up your app so that it will automatically start when you connect to your car’s Bluetooth connection.
Android Auto can be used as either a standalone driving-focused interface on your smartphone or it can connect to your car’s infotainment screen via USB to enable smart functionality in your vehicle.
Once installed, users can then select which apps they would like to open in Android Auto – and easily switch between calling, music, and navigation while driving.
Using Android Auto
I have been using Android Auto for around a year, and it has greatly improved my commute.
Like I was able to do with my standard smartphone set-up, I can play songs and podcasts on Spotify, navigate using Google Maps or Waze, and receive calls.
However, I did not read or type anything on my smartphone while I was driving – which made communication via text or changing navigation routes all but impossible.
Using Android Auto, I can now listen to my text messages as I receive them thanks to the built-in Google Assistant – which reads them out. I can also choose to reply by dictating a message to the app without looking at the smartphone screen.
It is also much easier to switch between music and navigation apps with the bigger, more driver-friendly interface which requires little concentration to use.
I use Spotify for music while driving and rely on Google Maps when navigating to new places, both of which can be controlled via voice commands and work perfectly with Android Auto.
WhatsApp also works flawlessly with Android Auto, allowing me to listen to text messages and reply to them using only voice commands.
The simple design of the application with its fewer, bigger buttons is much easier to use while driving, and thanks to the voice command functionality, I barely need to spare my smartphone a glance.
The application also includes safety features and will lock and warn you to focus on the road if you spend too much using the smartphone’s touchscreen.
It is a simple improvement in terms of interface and functionality, but the unification of all necessary “driving apps” along with the voice command support make Android Auto a must-have for commuters.