For the roughly 110 million people who use Waze to navigate cities and countrysides globally, there’s good news: The Google Assistant tie-in teased at Google’s I/O 2019 developer conference is officially live. The Mountain View company today announced that U.S.-based Android users will start to see Google Assistant in Waze (in English) this week, with expanded support in the near future.
As was detailed a few weeks back, Google Assistant in Waze’s turn-by-turn navigation screen can orchestrate a slew of tasks that would normally require lots of button swipes and taps, including queuing up and controlling playback of songs and podcasts, directly messaging contacts, placing phone calls, and more. Additionally, Google Assistant can kick off Waze-specific features like reporting accidents and construction, checking for alternate routes, avoiding tolls, and previewing upcoming traffic with utterances like “Hey Google, report construction” and “Hey Google, avoid tolls.”
“Voice commands in the car help minimize distractions so you can focus on the road,” wrote Google Assistant director Austin Chang in a blog post. “We look forward to [continuing to] making your driving experience even better with help from the Google Assistant.”
Google Assistant’s Waze debut follows a Google Maps for Android and iOS rollout during the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show. In January, Google took the wraps off an updated version of Maps that lets people use their voice to share their ETA, reply to text messages, play music, search for places along their routes, add new stops, auto-punctuate messages, and more, thanks to tighter integration with Google Assistant.
Today’s news also dovetails with the forthcoming launch of Google Assistant’s driving mode, which was previewed in early May. When it begins hitting phones in earnest this summer, it will automatically launch when the phone is connect to a car’s Bluetooth infotainment system, or with the command “Hey Google, let’s drive,” and will display a feed of personalized recommendations from calendars, call logs, and recently played songs. A persistent widget at the top will display the weather and a one-sentence traffic report, and the space beneath it will prominently feature touch-friendly shortcuts to navigation, call, and music playback screens.
Google Assistant’s driving mode effectively replaces Google’s Android Auto app, which the company says will be deprioritized going forward.
Apps aren’t the only way the company is bringing Google Assistant to more cars in more places. In partnership with Anker’s Roav brand, the search giant in April announced Bolt, the first Bluetooth-enabled aftermarket accessory designed with Google Assistant in mind. It boasts dual microphones and noise-reducing algorithms optimized to pick out voice commands and relay them to a paired Android phone for processing, and USB ports for charging nearby devices.