You’ll need to rely on Assistant Driving Mode for your future road trips
Let’s hope there’s room left in the graveyard, because Google has claimed another victim. Less than a month after we learned Android Auto’s phone screen mode was shutting down for all devices, the company has finally shuttered the app. Starting today, drivers without a display in their car will have to rely on Assistant Driving Mode — or any number of third-party alternatives — for navigation, music controls, and more.
Android Auto for phone screens began its slow descent into death last summer when Google confirmed it wouldn’t work on devices running Android 12 or later. That left smartphones running older OS versions able to use the company’s legacy — and for many, preferred — car-friendly UI. Starting today, that’s changing. As spotted by 9to5Google and confirmed on my trusty Android 11-equipped Pixel 2, Android Auto for phone screens is dead and gone. Opening the app on your smartphone pushes you to the Auto settings page, along with a message informing drivers everywhere that time has finally run out.
As disappointing as this might be, it shouldn’t surprise anyone. The fate for Google’s first phone-friendly car mode was written in the stars last summer — and arguably, earlier. Android Auto for phone screens was created as a stopgap as work on Assistant Driving Mode took longer than expected. The app available in the Play Store was basically a shortcut to the existing service, but it signaled some sense of continued support from Google. Once Assistant Driving Mode started to arrive on phones in supported regions, the need to keep Auto alive on phone screens all but vanished, leading us right up to today’s shutdown.
If you’re looking to hit the road this summer, Assistant Driving Mode gets the job done, though it’s a fundamentally different experience than what Android Auto previously offered. It’s also lacking key features once found in Auto for phone screens, including landscape mode, the option to switch to different navigation apps outside of Google Maps, and more. There’s a lot of work to be done on Assistant Driving Mode to bring it up to par with the service it’s replacing, and so far, updates and new features have been few and far between.
There’s also a problem with availability. Driving Mode Assistant isn’t available worldwide yet, which could leave some drivers high and dry without a solution. We’ve reached out to Google for clarification on what users without access to its newest car mode should do. With summer just kicking off — and plenty of vacation-goers looking to head to far-off lands, no matter what gas prices are — the company couldn’t have picked a worse time to finally kill Android Auto.