Android Auto users get Zoom, Amazon Prime Video for the car
- Android Auto updates include more functionality, with new apps and entertainment options.
- Users can improve in-car productivity with audio-only conference calls via Webex and Zoom and virtual meetings while on the road, kill time while charging your electric vehicle with the Prime Video series, or browse the web in the car.
- For Hyundai, Kia and Genesis models, there’s also a new phone-based digital key for your car.
Carmakers spend millions in R&D on the design of their infotainment systems, but it increasingly looks like they should leave the work to phone companies. Case in point: The latest Android Auto updates bring more useful features for drivers, all built into the smartphone you probably already have in your pocket.
On the productivity side, new in-car apps from Webex and Zoom will make it easier to join conference calls while driving. The move to virtual work has separated many people from their desks. However, having to stop to look for your phone or laptop to join a virtual meeting is a pain. Now, you can listen — with audio only, of course — on the go, turning your Android Auto-equipped car into a mobile office.
The latest update comes with new Google-built vehicle entertainment options, and it’s not too soon either. As early electric car adopters learned long ago, public chargers aren’t always located right next to that quaint coffee shop. Waiting to prepare your electric car can make you cry. The new Prime Video app is being rolled out to Volvo and Polestar (and, overseas, Renault) commercial vehicles, and allows users to stream their favorite shows while the electrons flow. There’s also a new Vivaldi Internet browser for browsing the web.
Cars with Google also have access to an app from the Weather Channel. When downloaded, this app allows your Honda to provide you with forecast updates as you drive, perfect for road trips and daily commutes. The app also provides an on-board weather radar map view of your planned trip.
Lock and unlock for Hyundai/Kia/Genesis
Finally, Google is expanding its rollout of digital vehicle keys, which is already available in some European markets. For some Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis vehicles, using a compatible Pixel or Samsung phone allows users to unlock and start their vehicle using just their phone. You can also send this digital key to other phones, in case you loan your car to someone else.
Right now, most of these features are tied to specific vehicle brands, but Google says the apps will soon become more common. There’s still opposition, including Rivian, but between Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, the industry may be working toward a more unified type of on-board infotainment system.
Brendan McAleer is a freelance writer and photographer based in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He grew up with a passion for British cars, came of age in the golden age of Japanese compact sports cars, and began writing about cars and people in 2008. His particular interest is in the intersection between humanity and machines, whether that relates to racing. Walter Cronkite’s career or Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s half-century obsession with the Citroën 2CV. He’s taught his two young daughters how to change a manual transmission and is grateful for the excuse to permanently buy Hot Wheels.