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Beginning this week in the U.S., Google Assistant will become the default assistant for Android Auto. This announcement was one in a series of changes for the assistant announced today in conjunction with the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
With Google Assistant in Android Auto, people will be able to do a variety of familiar things, like play music on Spotify, get step-by-step directions from Google Maps or Waze, or send text messages, but they will also be able to do new things, like control smart home devices. This means when you arrive home you can say “OK Google, turn on the living room lights” before you get out of the car.
Google Assistant will also help make Android Auto a portal to more local services. Some services that will be added to the Assistant experience in the near future include the ability to reserve parking spaces with SpotHero and place food and drink orders while you’re on the way to Starbucks.
Android Auto is able to interact with a number of apps for news, music, and sports and send hands-free messages through popular messaging apps like WhatsApp, Skype, and Hangouts.
With vehicles from Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai — and starting today Kia — you can also use Google Assistant on other devices to ask about things like car fuel levels or lock your car doors.
Also announced today: Google Assistant is being optimized to work with additional wireless headphones, smart speakers, and appliances from brands like LG and Sony. Touchscreen devices that interact with Google Assistant and utilize a visual user interface with cards, carousels, and videos are also coming from brands like Sony, LG, and JBL.
Drivers using Assistant with Android Auto should continue to expect a minimal amount of visuals in order to avoid distractions, Google Assistant VP Scott Huffman told VentureBeat in an interview.
“We have kind of defaulted to a very verbal user interface as a starting point, and then over time we’ll start to add things like weather cards and other things we think will lower the distraction levels for users for a very verbal UI,” Huffman said.
As a competitor of Apple CarPlay and the growing number of vehicles with Alexa inside, Android Auto can be deployed in vehicles in a number of ways.
Android Auto can be set to appear on car displays in 400 vehicles from more than 40 brands, including Audi, Ford, Mitsubishi, and Volkswagen. Amazon’s Alexa has been integrated into vehicles from BMW, Ford, and Volkswagen.
Drivers in cars that lack this ability can download the Android Auto app on a smartphone and start it up whenever their phone detects the car’s Bluetooth.