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Google Releases Android Auto APIs

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Following on from their announcement of Android Auto in June, Google has now published their first APIs for the platform. Available as part of the Android 5.0 (Lollipop) SDK the APIs will allow developers to add a tailored in-car experience to their existing Android applications.

Developed under the Open Automotive Alliance, Android Auto is a telematics standard enabling in-car electronics to control Android devices. Using Auto, drivers will be able to access the mapping, search, media, SMS and telephony capabilities of their devices via their car's head unit. Drivers can operate Auto enabled phones or tablets via either touch or voice recognition, with a preference on the latter to minimise distraction.

In this initial release of the APIs Google has provided interfaces to the audio and SMS capabilities of Android devices. This allows for two categories of app:

  • Audio Apps - allow the user to browse and playback audio content in their car e.g. music, podcasts news etc.
  • Messaging Apps - enable sending and receiving of SMS messages. Incoming messages can be read aloud using text-to-speech and responses dictated via voice recognition.

To assist developers in writing their first Auto enabled apps Google has released a number of resources. The 'Getting Started with Auto' guide walks developers through the process of setting up an Auto project and also details the process of integrating the audio and messaging APIs. In addition to this Google has released updates to two of its sample applications to demonstrate the Auto APIs:

Of particular interest to developers will be Google's strict 'Auto App Quality' guidelines. These guidelines set the minimum expectations for app visual design and user interaction. At the time of submission to the Play store Google will enforce these guidelines as part of a driver safety review. Particular emphasis is placed on reducing driver interaction and distraction by eliminating animation, alerts and unnecessary notifications.

Developers should be aware that they cannot yet submit apps utilising the Auto APIs to the Google Play store. In their announcement Google noted that, "apps extended with Android Auto cannot be published quite yet". No further information was provided as to when the Play store will allow submission of Auto enabled apps.

The commercial release of the first vehicles offering support for Android Auto is imminent. To date Google has named 28 manufacturers who will be incorporating Auto into their vehicles. One of these manufacturers is Hyundai, who demonstrated the integration of Android Auto into their new 2015 Sonata model at last week's LA Auto show.

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