Volvo’s native Google integration is the next level for Android Auto

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After teasing the news for the second straight year at Google I/O, Volvo is close to becoming the first company to sell a car that features Android Auto without requiring a phone. The difference this year is that we finally got to try it out.

Volvo showcased an XC40 running the new version of its Sensus infotainment system, which is now built on top of Android P. It features an updated UI with four menu bars that you can slide to reveal more control modules. There’s also a built-in Google Assistant button on the steering wheel, which you can use to ask the system to play music, perform search queries, look up directions, or adjust the cabin temperature.

The tiles on the updated UI are big and colorful — app icons stand out more clearly, and overall it feels like there’s an Android tablet strapped to the center of the car, down to the center home button. (I mean that in the best way!) You can also drag down from the top like you would on a smartphone to see notifications. In the new system, there’s now a Google Play button that lets you browse and install Android Auto-approved apps, such as Deezer, Pocketcasts, or Telegram. The goal is not to be distracted on the road, so video apps like YouTube will specifically be left out.

While you don’t need a Google account to use these apps, having one does enable more personalization. For example, Google Maps will be able to pull in your favorite locations such as Home and Work when you choose your driver profile. (Switching driver profiles also customizes the car to your last seat adjustments.) If you’re not signed in, you may miss out on other features like Hangouts messages or the ability to download additional Google Play apps.

Since the new system runs on Android P and the updated Google Assistant that can make appointments on your behalf, Volvo also says the car will be able to automatically recognize when it’s due for maintenance and suggest booking an appointment. If you say yes, Google Assistant will take care of that for you and notify when the booking is confirmed.

This is all just a working prototype for now — the final version for consumers will likely be a little different than what we saw today since this is not expected to be released until late next year for 2020 Volvo models. But it is nice to be able to jump in a car and get the Android Auto experience straight from the driver’s seat without having to pair your phone —or even bother with an Android device in the first place.

By: Natt Garun, The Verge

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