Google‘s long-awaited revamp of Android Auto, which puts a focus on a split-screen interface, is finally rolling out to users. The update was originally scheduled to be released in the summer of 2022, but was delayed until CES 2023 due to the stringent safety regulations surrounding car apps. Android Auto is an app that runs on a user’s phone and sends a custom interface to a compatible car’s dashboard. Unlike regular Android, which can adapt to any size or shape display, Android Auto was originally designed for a horizontal 16:9 display. While it has since been updated to be slightly more flexible, it has always been optimized for a widescreen display.
The new split-screen interface, however, can adapt to any rectangular screen and consists of three components: a navigation bar, main app interface, and a smaller sidebar that can display one or two widgets. The navigation bar can be placed on the bottom or right side of the screen, while the main app interface can be stacked on top of or placed next to the sidebar. The sidebar itself can be a tall vertical strip or a skinny horizontal strip. The sidebar is a notable new addition to Android Auto, functioning similarly to Android’s notification bar, but with extra features tailored for use in a car. It can display controls for the currently playing media or media suggestions, and can also show notifications such as incoming texts or weather updates.
In addition to the split-screen interface, Google is also adding a seekable progress bar for Android Auto music and podcast apps, which will be applied to all Android Auto media apps. Due to safety regulations, app developers do not have complete control over the design of the user interface for Android Auto. Instead, they must use a pre-built media interface provided by Google and can only customize the media stream, branding colors, and select from a few button options. This pre-built interface is being updated with the new seekable progress bar, so all apps will automatically receive it. It is currently unclear if existing cars with larger screens will need to be updated to support the new configuration.