Google Maps gains Assistant driving mode, viable alternative to Android Auto app

Android Auto can be found in many modern vehicle head-units, but if you don’t have a compatible radio, Google provides a standalone app that simulated the experience: an interface that only allows access the most important messaging, music, and calling apps while doing it in a way that minimizes distractions. Last year at Google I/O, the company announced a new driving mode was coming, and its now rolling out to Android users in the US.

The new driving mode is kind of like if Android Auto was fused into Google Maps, with an emphasis on Google Assistant. We saw a prompt in Google Maps just before beginning a navigation route that introduced the new interface. Basically, it’s an add-on bar at the very bottom of the navigation window.

There’s a shortcut for the assistant at the lower-left corner, and a new shortcut for apps appears on the lower-right. You also get super-simplified music control. The title of the current podcast or song appears here, and there’s a skip button to keep the track list moving. The downside is that it doesn’t have a button to skip backwards but it is meant to reduce distraction.

By default, this mode will appear as soon as you begin navigating, and it will also automatically enable Do Not Disturb. Like Android Auto, you can still receive messages from apps and reply to them by voice. Phone calls won’t also take up the entire screen so you can keep your eyes on the map.

The rollout of the new driving mode appears to be widely rolling out to Android users of Google Maps in the US. Let us know what you think of the new interface.

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