Once an Android device is paired with the car's head unit, the system can mirror some apps on the vehicle's display. Supported apps include GPSmapping and navigation, music playback, SMS, telephone, and Web search. The system supports both touchscreen and button-controlled head units. Hands-free operation through voice commands is available and recommended to reduce driver distraction.
Android Auto is part of the Open Automotive Alliance, a joint effort of 28 automobile manufacturers, with Nvidia as tech supplier, available in 36 countries.
Android Auto home screen
The most common way Android Auto is deployed is via an Androidmobile device running the Android Auto app, acting as a master to a vehicle's dashboard head unit that supports this functionality. Once the user's Android device is connected to the vehicle, the head unit will serve as an external display for the Android device, presenting supported software in a car-specific user interface provided by the Android Auto app. In Android Auto's first iterations, the device was required to be connected via USB to the car.
Alternatively, in November 2016, Google added the option to run Android Auto as a regular app on an Android device, i.e., not tethered to a car's head unit, which allows it to be used on Android-powered head units, or simply on a personal phone or tablet in the vehicle.
As of February 2022[update], Android Auto is available in 46 countries:
June 25, 2014: Android Auto was revealed at Google I/O 2014.
November 2016: Google added the option to run Android Auto as a regular app on an Android device.
July 2019: Android Auto received its first major UI rework, which among other changes, brought an app drawer to Android Auto for the first time. Google also announced that the app's ability of being used on a phone would be discontinued in favor of Google Assistant's drive mode.
December 2020: Google announced the expansion of Android Auto to 36 additional countries in Europe, Indonesia, and more.
April 2021: Android Auto launched in Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Sweden.
An Android Auto SDK has been released, allowing third parties to modify their apps to work with Android Auto; initially, only APIs for music and messaging apps are available.
Additionally, aftermarket car-audio systems supporting Android Auto add the technology into host vehicles, including Pioneer, Kenwood, Panasonic, and Sony.
In May 2019, Italy filed an antitrust complaint targeting Android Auto, citing that a Google policy of only allowing third-party media and messaging apps on the platform prevented Enel from offering an app for locating vehicle charging stations.
Initially, Google did not enable third parties to integrate their mapping apps with Android Auto, only its own apps, Google Maps and Waze, being available. But since 2020, third party mapping apps such as Sygic are also available.
Google announced a new SDK to be released to select partners in August 2020 and to be generally available by the end of 2020.