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Android Auto is almost ready for split-screen mode as video streaming apps come to cars

While most of the big announcements from Google I/O 2022 came yesterday during the keynote or in the sessions shortly thereafter, Day Two still had a number of exciting product offerings. During a session dedicated to Android for cars, several fundamental changes were announced that will make the in-car experience more comfortable and enjoyable.

Perhaps the biggest change coming is the launch of the long-awaited split screen mode. First spotted late last year, this mode puts the navigation view, media player, and contextual overlay all on the same screen. The new design adapts to any screen size and aspect ratio, redirecting its design to make the most of the space.

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Google previously released an update adding the ability to send smart responses in response to messages, but this appears to be just part of the contextual actions users will be able to take in just two clicks. For example, the split screen demonstration video also shows an action that allows users to share their expected time of arrival with a contact.

The split-screen mode is expected to roll out “just in time for summer,” which probably means over the next six weeks or so.

Google’s built-in cars (formerly Android Automotive) also deserve something new because they’re about to be free to play videos while the car is waiting. Originally announced earlier this year with a focus on YouTube, more streaming apps are now set to join the list, including Tubi and Epix Now. This will give drivers more ways to have fun while they’re charging their car or waiting to pick up food.

Google is also making plans to expand this capability to support Google Cast, so it will be easier to find videos to play while you wait. There is also a web browser in operation, which gives drivers another way to perform a roadside search.

Nothing specific has been mentioned about how long this app will last, and it’s not clear if all of these features will come at the same time. However, if the original advertisement is true, the video playback may be exclusive to Volvo for a short time before it passes to other brands.

Since this is a developer conference, there are also some new things for app makers. The single biggest detail is that apps can now be built to target a single library that works with both Android Auto and Android Automotive OS, saving a lot of time and energy involved in building and deploying separate variants.

New application templates and categories have also been added to support more types of parking and navigation applications, and also to add “Driver Applications” to the Mobility category, which enables companies like Lyft to provide suitable custom tools for their drivers.

These and many new features have been added as part of Car App Library v1.3. New APIs also give media apps the ability to make recommendations for a suggested listening feature from Google Assistant, and new tools to improve the navigation experience, such as “alerts” to inform drivers of things like traffic cameras.

While we’ve seen some of this stuff in recent months, Google is showing off more refined, polished versions that show in-car strategy is on a good track.

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2022-05-12 16:00:00

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