Android Automotive gets its 38th app: Waze

Enlarge / Waze for Android Automotive.


Google’s Miscellaneous Major navigation app Waze is coming to Android Automotive. Today the company announced the move on the Waze blog, saying, “The new dedicated Waze app for cars offers the best of Waze with real-time navigation, routing and notifications capabilities[s] directly on the car display. When you drive, you can travel safer and more comfortably while avoiding the hassle of using a smartphone.”

Google has two different car products with really confusing branding. The first is Android Auto. This is Google’s version of CarPlay – an app that runs on your phone but projects a special car interface onto your vehicle’s dashboard and displays Google Maps and compatible Android Auto apps on your phone. Waze has been on Android Auto since 2017. Today’s announcement is for Android Automobile, a product other than Android Auto. Automotive, the fully advertised version, is a full operating system instead of an app. Cars have infotainment computers inside them, and Android Automotive OS (AAOS) runs the car Android. Even if you have an iPhone in your pocket, your car will run Android on the car’s internal computer instead of something like Linux or QNX. AAOS has a car version of the Play Store where you can download apps straight to your car, and that’s the platform where Waze arrives. Android Automotive is quite rare in the world, but you will mostly see it on new Volvo/Polestar, Ford and GM cars. Sometimes Google or car manufacturers call AAOS “cars with integrated Google”.

The app situation on Android Automotive is tense. In-car infotainment systems are so heavily regulated for safety reasons that every app and every single interface has to be checked by regulators around the world. This is incredibly difficult, expensive and time-consuming for app developers, which is a big reason Android Automotive currently only has 37 apps. You can view the full list here. AAOS only allows media and navigation apps, and even the media apps don’t get a custom UI – you just plug into Google’s UI with your own branding and audio stream, reducing regulatory overhead but limiting what apps can do .

Waze’s car app looks very similar to the phone app, but it’s bigger, with the all-important report button and tons of icons showing user reports for police, construction sites, and other road hazards. The screenshot even shows a “Still there?” prompts the user to confirm that a previously reported hazard is still active.

Despite developing an app for Google’s car operating system, Waze is limiting the rollout to certain vehicles for now. The company says the app is exclusive to “the new Renault Austral Hybrid and Renault Megane E-Tech electric vehicles in Europe.” The odd launch could have to do with all the regulatory issues car apps have to deal with, and Waze says the new app will be available to “more users around the world in 2023”.

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