Hands-On With Google Assistant Driving Mode’s New UI

Finally ready to hit the road

Key Takeaways

  • After almost two years of waiting, Google Assistant Driving Mode is ready to replace Android Auto on phones.
  • Google Assistant Driving Mode has received a new update which includes a better-designed home screen.
  • You can now use Google Assistant Driving Mode even if you haven’t entered an actual destination.
Someone looking at a map on a smartphone.

henry perks / Unsplash

The end of Android Auto on phones is growing closer, and Google finally has updated Google Assistant Driving Mode to make it a worthy successor.

Way back in 2019, Google announced that it would be replacing Android Auto on phones with Google Assistant Driving Mode. The idea was to take everything users already relied on in Android Auto and make it easier to get to through the Assistant. While it has been available for a bit now, Google finally is gearing up to replace Android Auto on phones completely. 

That starts by giving Google Assistant Driving Mode a slick new user interface, one that’s almost perfect.

"...Overall, the user interface changes are a nice improvement from what Google teased initially."

Location, Location, Location

One of the most annoying things about Google Assistant Driving Mode used to be that you had to start driving somewhere with a location selected to connect to it. Now, though, Google has made it so that you can easily launch the new user interface by simply saying, "Hey Google, launch Driving Mode" or even something simpler like "Let’s drive."

This new UI is really what makes Google Assistant Driving Mode shine now. Before, the UI was a bit clunky and hard to navigate. Now, though, everything is clearly in place for you, making it easy to move around the different tiles that have been set up.

You easily can type in a location if you need to, or even see suggested locations based on Google search history and more. Additionally, Google has installed a For You tile, which shows you some recommended media types—like Spotify, YouTube Music, etc. Finally, there’s the option to make a call or send a message, both of which will show you recent contacts that you can select from.

It all fits together nicely, and all the tiles are big and easy to work with. This is something that’s good to see, especially after the original UI that Google showcased, which offered much smaller option tiles to select from. 

Road Wear

Of course, the app isn’t perfect either. While there are many good things about the new Assistant Driving Mode UI, there are also some problems. As with any app, you may have to worry about the app crashing, especially if you’re running it on a beta version of Android 12—which may already be prone to some issues. 

There’s also the minor annoyance that you can’t get back to the UI’s home screen after you've made some selections. This can be frustrating to deal with, especially if you’re on the road and don’t have time to pull over and play with your phone for a few minutes to get it all set back up.

Also, right now, the only way to exit driving mode once it has been activated is to press a button labeled "Home Screen," which makes it sound like you might go back to the new mode’s home screen. Instead, you go back to your phone’s main screen, which could be confusing for many users.

Driving Onward

Despite the issues that users might run into when using the new Assistant Driving Mode, overall, the user interface changes are a nice improvement from what Google teased initially. The original design features a scroll menu, which would have been challenging to navigate, especially when in a hurry to get everything set up.

The app options in Google Assistant Driving Mode.

Now, though, Google has everything separated by screens and tiles, which you can easily switch between by selecting the tiles you need. There are still a few kinks to work out, but overall it works smoothly and shouldn’t give users any significant issues. 

Google hasn’t said exactly when it plans to replace Android Auto on phones with Google Assistant Driving Mode, but we know it will happen in Android 12. Right now, Google is officially expected to launch Android 12 in the coming month or so.

Of course, the time it takes to make it to specific devices could vary. For now, at least Android Auto users can rest easy knowing they won’t be left in the dust when Google Assistant Driving Mode becomes the primary form of navigating their device while driving.

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