Google rolled out a new Android Auto update with a slew of new features. Most notably, the digital car key feature which allows a Google Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, or a Samsung Galaxy S21 to lock, unlock, and start compatible BMW cars. As you can see, the feature is quite limited right now, so hopefully they will expand the feature to more phones and cars in the future.
This digital car key uses both NFC and something called UWB (ultra-wideband). UWB gives you a much higher range compared to NFC, but only certain phones support it. At the moment, UWB is not very common in Android phones, so I’m guessing that’s where the digital key bottleneck is when it comes to compatible phones.
Additionally, Android Auto will now launch automatically when you start your car with a connected phone nearby. Google has been hard at work, implementing new Android Auto features and even partnering with Honda to add Android Automotive OS for 2022 models.
Apart from the digital phone key, let’s go over the other features that came with the new Android Auto update.
Other Android Auto features
Google also announced an always-on play button on the home screen which allows you to access your music more easily. There are also upgrades to the voice search feature, which makes it smarter compared to how it was before. Previously, this feature only understood you if you mentioned the full song and artist name. Now, you can just mention common song titles and Android Auto will ask you to clarify which one you want to listen to.
They also plan to integrate Google Assistant’s ‘Smart Reply’ feature, which would make responding to text messages much quicker. You can just tap on the pre-made responses like “On my way”, “No”, or “Me too!” instead of typing out a whole sentence. This feature is expected to roll out in the next few months.
There are also new widget updates, like a YouTube Music widget with playback controls, a Google Photos widget to display your memories, and a ‘Play Books’ widget if you’re into audiobooks.