Assistant Drive Mode was a pale imitation, but at least it was more than just a Maps wrapper
If you drive a car without a dash display, it’s been a rough couple of years. Last year, Google shut down Android Auto for phone screens running Android 12 and later, with the the app is closed completely for all users this year. Earlier this week, we learned Assistive driving mode was dropping the Maps card from your board. It made sense – that specific static card wasn’t particularly useful as it redirected you to the full Maps app – but it turns out that’s far from the whole story. Today, Google confirmed that it’s making a much bigger change to the assistive driving mode: it’s closing the dashboard view altogether.
Google reached out to Android Police today to clarify the future of its car-friendly UI for phones in cars, and it’s a big change. On November 21, the company will close the dashboard view that was first released late last summer, switching the experience to Maps entirely and simplifying the experience for drivers.
Dashboard view of assistive driving mode.
Rather than launching Driving Mode via a voice command or home screen shortcut, it will blend in with standard Maps navigation and offer push notifications for incoming calls and messages. These prompts can be interacted with by touching the large icons on the screen or through standard voice commands that keep your hands on the wheel. Fortunately, the app grid is still there, giving you quick access to all those services and shortcuts.
Assistive Driving Mode notifications integrated into Maps.
So why is this change happening? It turns out that most users interact with the assistive driving mode through Maps, not through the dashboard itself. This fact makes perfect sense: not only does Maps open whenever you give Driving Mode a destination, but those Assistant-powered features also launch within Maps if you start navigating through the app directly. Google never provided drivers with a way to return to the dashboard view once they were on the road; it only gave them a shortcut to apps that support Driving Mode, like media and messaging. If you weren’t familiar with the assistive driving mode, which must initially be accessed via voice command before home screen shortcut was once availableyou would never discover it organically.
More than anything, this change confirms how the assistive driving mode failed to gain traction after the shutdown of Android Auto. Google had an opportunity to rethink what purpose your phone should serve while driving, something the initial announcement at I/O 2019 seemed to demonstrate. When this dashboard view was released, more than two years later, the assistive driving mode had an entirely new user interface, focused less on providing drivers with contextual information and more on a standard set of widgets and shortcuts. With limited regional availability and no space in the app drawer, it’s no wonder this service never caught on.
It was never meant to be.
Finally, Driving mode felt half-baked from the start, especially considering that the navigation never synced up with the dashboard. With next month’s changes, it’s best to think of these tools as a feature of Maps, not part of Assistant or Android. In a way, today’s news really marks the Final nail in the coffin for Android Auto on phone screens. If you’re going to hit the road this holiday season, you’ll need a car with a built-in dash display or you’ll be forced to rely on Maps with the Assistant’s unique set of tools. Otherwise, a variety of third party offers are waiting for you in play store.