Google Assistant turns smartphones into infotainment systems

May 9, 2019

Drivers won't have to upgrade to a new car with a big screen and the latest hardware to use certain functions similar to Google's Android Auto. The tech giant on Tuesday said at its developer conference that its revamped Google Assistant feature set to roll out over the next few months will include a car-oriented Driving Mode that may even be more powerful than factory-supplied infotainment software. 

The mode automatically syncs when a driver pairs their Android smartphone with a car's Bluetooth connection. Quickly, the smartphone becomes an extension of a car's infotainment system—or maybe even a replacement. Drivers will have a specific menu and functions tailored to in-car activities such as navigation, music, and messages.

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Google Assistant will populate things such as reservations or other events, which will give the driver the opportunity to automatically start a navigation route to the location. Within the navigation route, drivers can also run through a list of commands without interruption such as asking the Google Assistant to play media or answer phone calls. The Driving Mode also remembers where a user paused a podcast or song and picks it up exactly where it left off in the car.

Users can also simply tell the assistant "Hey Google, let's drive," and Driving Mode will configure without a Bluetooth connection in the car.

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Perhaps the niftiest feature will be the ability to control the car from Google Assistant. The technology company said select vehicles (Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai to start) will be able to work with Driving Mode for other functions. Users will be able to tell the Google Assistant to adjust the car's temperature before a trip, for example. The system will work with the Mercedes Me and Hyundai Bluelink systems in the months to come, Google said.

The revamped Google Assistant and its Driving Mode follows the announcement of a refreshed Android Auto platform. Google also announced the redesign and added functionality to its dedicated in-car infotainment system at its developer's conference this week. Both the updated assistant and Android Auto will launch this summer.

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