You could always run the Android Auto app on your phone to get a better / safer interface while driving, but Google doesn’t widely advertise this functionality (the Auto app is mainly used to connect to car entertainment systems) and does not always work properly. Google announced a replacement for Google I / O more than a year ago and is finally showing up on phones.
Google Assistant’s driving mode was first introduced at Google I / O 2019, but the company has been relatively silent about it ever since. The driving mode was designed to switch the phone to a minimalist interface with a single voice command, with a home page containing shortcuts for navigation, calling, music playback and other options. Google later said that the driving mode would replace the Android Auto phone mode, although the company initially said the transition would take place “in the coming months”
The original incarnation of driving mode
Earlier this month, it began to appear that the long-awaited driving mode could prove to be a feature in Google Maps, rather than an application-independent approach to Assistant or Android Auto. The functionality seems to be spreading to more people, although it’s not yet clear if this is a limited test or if Google intends to deliver this to everyone in the coming weeks. Our friends at XDA Developers say that several of their phones have activated the new mode, but it still doesn’t show on any of my devices.
The new driving mode is available by tapping your photo in the Google Maps app, tapping “Navigation Settings” and finally selecting “Google Assistant Settings”. This menu previously took you to the General Assistant settings screen (the same one available through Google Home, Search, etc.), but now displays a new driving mode panel. Supposedly you can say “Okay, Google, let’s drive” to bring up the new interface, but even for people with driving mode, it still doesn’t work.
Driving mode (Source: XDA Developers)
In its current embodiment, the driving mode adds a bottom toolbar to Google Maps with an Assistant button, a scroll button through supported apps, and media controls. The overall design is similar to Android Auto, but the controls are being moved to better match the proportions of the phones.
Watch out for the new driving mode as it (eventually) starts reaching more phones. Here, we hope that Google will eventually untie it from Maps, so you can use alternative mapping apps like Waze.