Automakers are increasingly integrating touchscreens into vehicles—to the dismay of safe-driving advocates, who justifiably fear people are already too distracted by phone calls and texts while driving.
Tech companies are responding by designing what they say are safer ways for customers to stay glued to their favorite apps and online services behind the wheel.
Google’s (GOOG) Android is working on an interface to make it safer and more user-friendly through a platform called Android Auto, which allows maps, music, and personal organization functions on your phone to be accessed through a larger screen in the car. Followers are describing it as Android’s answer to Apple’s (AAPL) CarPlay.
“People don’t want to check their phones at the doors when they get behind the wheel,” Patrick Brady, Google’s director for engineering of Android, says in a promotional video released at the Google I/O developer conference this week. With Android Auto, “you get the best of both worlds. You get the connected apps and services on your smartphone, with the physical controls that were optimized for driving in your car.”
Google design manager Henry Newton-Dunn says the problem now is that cars are “fundamentally disconnected vehicles.” This leads many drivers to juggle their phones while driving—a bad idea, since the screens are too small and the interface and menus too complicated to navigate.
“We had to take an experience that was designed for a smartphone and break it down to its bare essentials,” Brady says in the video, which shows drivers tapping on the screen to use Google maps and using voice controls to set reminders on their phones.