Is Google Assistant’s Driving Mode a half-baked product?


New updates are added at the bottom of the story…

The original story (from May 15) follows

The Google Assistant driving mode was first unveiled at the I/O 2019 keynote. It came as a replacement for the popular Android Auto app for phone screens.

As the name suggests, the app was designed to be used on smartphones. This eliminated the need to interact with the car’s dashboard while driving and instead everything happens on the phone.

Basically, it was a streamlined Android Auto UI with minimal distraction that worked directly on a smartphone instead of being pushed to the dash.

Android Auto for phone screens

With the app, one can still navigate using the same Google Assistant voice commands, carry on with the usual messaging and music streaming as with full-fledged Android Auto. Raison? They both used the same software.

With the new driver-friendly Assistant interface, you can easily get more done while staying focused on the road. Use voice to send and receive calls and texts, quickly check new messages in your messaging apps in one place, and read your texts so you don’t have to look at your phone. The assistant will even notify you of an incoming call so you can answer or decline with your voice. You can also play media from hundreds of providers around the world, including YouTube Music, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and more.
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However, typically Google decided that it was time to kill Android Auto app for phone screens in favor of Assistant driving mode.

While Google was no doubt looking to become more helpful to motorists with this move, not everyone agrees with this decision.

Google Assistant’s driving mode was supposed to be that top Android Auto replacement for phone screens that many expected would fix some of Android Auto’s shortcomings. But it became even more problematic than expected.

We at PiunikaWeb have highlighted a few issues affecting the platform. Several users have reported an issue with the Assistant Driving Mode not disabling for some reason.

There are also many others who have expressed their disgust at the lack of support for landscape mode when using driving mode.

Google-Assistant driving mode
(Source)

Android Auto has been known to have issues with Google Assistant, and since the new drive mode relies heavily on voice commands, some users are reporting the usual issues they’ve seen before.

There are also driving mode reports random activation for some Pixel owners, even when turned off. For others, they have to deal with the “driving application” constantly running background.

Even more frustratingly, some Assistant driving mode users are now reporting that it doesn’t work well with Google Maps, a vital navigation app.

I have a Pixel 6 and it’s fully updated with the February 2022 security patch. When I turn on Assistant driving mode, everything works fine except Google Maps. If I try to navigate or open the app drawer and press Maps, the standard version of Google Maps will be loaded. So either I’ll be in navigation mode with the old icons at the bottom, or I’ll just be in normal Google maps. There is no option to return to Assistant driving mode.

The app drawer is no longer visible and I have to activate Driving Assistant Mode a second time to get back to the Driving Mode home screen. The buttons at the bottom do nothing. Tap the phone icon to access my home screen.l (the phone home screen). Pressing the music button also takes you to my home screen. These still appear to be the Android Auto controls.
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We’ve also come across numerous instances where some Android Auto users have expressed their displeasure with the new drive mode, citing Google’s habit of unnecessarily replacing working apps/features with broken ones.

Google-Assistant-driving-Android-Auto
(Source)

Some even claim that a real mess of a driving mode is likely because none of those at Google working on the Assistant Driving Mode have ever driven a car.

Do you think anyone involved in creating the assisted driving mode has ever driven a car? that would explain a lot otherwise
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We also have cases of those with compatible devices but driving mode is completely missing. Although this can be easily attributed to the limited availability of the feature, those affected are the residents of supported regionsnamely Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Spain, United Kingdom and United States

Again, Google had good reason to depreciate Android Auto for phone screens in favor of Assistant driving mode. But clearly, there’s still a lot of negative energy surrounding this feature three years after its initial launch.

Is it because we are reviewing a downgraded product from Google in terms of usability? Or is it because most people just hate change?

Most would agree that the Google Assistant driving mode doesn’t bring any game-changing functionality over Android Auto to phone screens. The things it does could still be done through the dedicated app.

Android-Auto-for-phone-screens-1

And the fact that it’s still buggy and annoying to use makes it a less desirable proposition for those coming from Android Auto for phone screens.

On the contrary, Google has reduced the number of applications to be installed on phones by only one application. But in doing so, the company ended up with a half-baked product that still needs a lot of refinement to work perfectly. Or close to faultless.

I expected Google to announce improvements to the Assistant driving mode during I/O 2022, but unfortunately, at least at the time of writing, not much has come out in this regard.

Hopefully Google will keep trying harder to not only make the driving mode more functional and useful for those behind the wheel, but also less buggy. Of course, it may take a while, but I can wait.

Let us know your thoughts on the Google Assistant Driving Mode in the comments section below. Also feel free to vote on our Twitter poll, the results will be revealed after a week.

Update 1 (May 22)

Survey results are out, with more than 66% of voters saying they don’t like Google Assistant’s driving mode at all. About 25% said they liked it. If you missed the poll, feel free to comment in the section at the bottom.

The featured image: Googleblog

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