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Google reveals new Android Auto features, updated designs, and new details on Volvo in-car system ahead of I/O

Google’s in-car platform hasn’t changed much since it was originally unveiled, but in the past year or so it has seen some big changes. Last year at I/O, we saw Android Automotive’s debut, a phone-less version of Android Auto for specific cars, and now, we’re getting more details on that, as well as a slight revamp for Android Auto itself.

First and foremost, let’s talk about Google’s updates to the Android Auto we’ve come to know and love over the years. In a blog post, the company details a few new tweaks that are coming to the system, starting with the arrival of better group messaging.

If you’re a regular Android Auto user, you’ve probably noted how bad the system is at handling group messages, regardless of the app they’re from. In the near future, Auto will better handle that, as well as having full support for RCS messaging, all tieing into the Google Assistant.

Further, and possibly what is my favorite tweak, Google is adding better support for media search. As described in the announcement, Google is making it possible for “media apps to directly integrate their results into Android Auto.” So, as you can see below, users will be able to give users a quick shortcut to find more songs without voice commands, or pulling out their phone.

Lastly, there’s the arrival of some new visual templates for Android Auto, giving the UI a refreshed look.

For example, browsable content is placed front and center as soon as you open up an app, enabling you to easily recognize and quickly start listening to songs and podcasts.

Next, let’s dig into Google’s partnership with Volvo. As we saw at I/O last year, Google is working with specific car brands to integrate the best of Android Auto into the native interface for some cars, meaning those cars essentially run on Android, but without needing your phone to work.

This week, Google and Volvo have announced that Google Maps, Google Assistant, and even the Play Store will be coming to Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system. So, in the near future, drivers with these systems will be able to access some of Android Auto’s best features, such as Google Maps, without the need to plug in their phone. Volvo says in a press release:

Volvo Cars’ partnership with Google will further enhance the way Volvo customers engage with and interact with their cars. Apps and services developed by Google and Volvo Cars are embedded in the car, plus thousands of additional apps are available through the Google Play Store that is optimized and adapted for Android-based car infotainment systems.

Since the next generation of Sensus will run on Android, new apps and software updates will be available in real-time and can be automatically applied. This allows future Volvo cars to react to customer needs and offer drivers up-to-date information and predictive services.

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