Drive Assistant mode was a pale imitation, but at least it was more than just a Maps wrapper
If you’re driving a car without an in-dash display, it’s been a few years. Google shut down Android Auto for phone screens on Android 12 and beyond last year, with the app shutting down entirely for all users this year. Earlier this week, we learned that Assisted Driving Mode was removing the Maps map from its dashboard. That made sense – that specific static map wasn’t particularly useful, as it redirected you to the full Maps app – but it turns out that’s far from the full story. Today, Google confirmed that it’s making a much bigger change to the assisted driving mode: it closes the dashboard view completely.
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 shut down the Dashboard View that first launched late last summer, moving the experience entirely to Maps and streamlining the experience for drivers.
View of the assisted driving mode dashboard.
Rather than opening the Driving View via voice command or home screen shortcut, it will blend into the standard Maps navigation, offering pop-up notifications for incoming calls and messages. You can interact with these prompts by tapping the large on-screen icons or via standard voice commands that let you keep your hands on the wheel. Luckily, the app grid is still there, giving you quick access to all those services and shortcuts.
Assisted driving mode notifications integrated into Maps.
So why is this change happening? It turns out that most users interact with the assisted driving mode through Maps, not through the dashboard itself. This fact makes perfect sense: not only does Maps open whenever you give the Driving View a destination, but these assistant-powered features also launch in Maps if you start navigating directly in the app. Google never provided drivers with a way to return to the dashboard view once you were on the road – it only gave you a shortcut to apps supported by Driving Mode, such as media and messaging. If you weren’t familiar with assisted driving mode, which must initially be accessed via voice command before a home screen shortcut is available, you’ll never find out about it organically.
More than anything, this change cements how assisted driving mode failed to gain traction following the shutdown of Android Auto. Google had a chance to rethink what your phone should be used for while driving, which the initial announcement at I/O 2019 seemed to demonstrate. By the time this dashboard view was launched over two years later, the assisted driving mode had a completely new user interface, less focused on providing contextual information to drivers, and more on a set standard of widgets and shortcuts. With limited regional availability and no space in the app drawer, it’s no wonder this service never really caught on.
It was never meant to be.
In the end, the drive mode felt half-baked from the get-go, especially since the navigation never synced with the dash. With next month’s changes, it’s best to think of these tools as a Maps feature, not part of Assistant or Android. In a way, today’s news truly marks the final nail in the coffin of Android Auto hitting phone screens. If you’re hitting the road this holiday season, you’ll either need a car with a built-in dashboard, or you’ll be forced to rely on Maps with the Assistant’s unique toolset. Otherwise, an assortment of third-party offers await you on the Play Store.
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