You have always been able to run the Android Auto app on your phone to get a better / safer interface while driving, but Google doesn’t advertise that feature widely (the Auto app is mainly used for connecting to entertainment systems for cars) and does not always work properly. Google announced a replacement over a year ago to Google’s I / O, and it’s finally available on phones.
Google Assistant’s driving mode was first revealed at Google I / O 2019, but the company has been relatively quiet ever since. Driving mode was intended to switch the phone to a minimalist interface with a single voice command, with a home page containing shortcuts for navigation, calling, playing music and other options. Google later stated that the drive mode would replace the mode on the Android Auto phone, although the company initially said the transition would take place “in the next few months,”
The original incarnation of the driving mode
Earlier this month, it started to seem like the long-awaited Driving Mode could end up as a feature within Google Maps, rather than Assistant or Android Auto’s app-independent approach. It looks like the feature has been rolled out to more people, though it’s still unclear whether this is a limited test or if Google plans to ship it to everyone in the coming weeks. Our friends at XDA Developers say many of their phones have the new mode enabled, but it has yet to show up on any of my devices.
The new driving mode is accessible by tapping your photo in the Google Maps app, pressing on “Navigation Settings” and finally selecting “Google Assistant Settings”. This menu previously took you to the assistant’s general settings screen (the same one accessible via Google Home, Search, etc.), but now it brings up a new panel for driving mode. You should be able to say “OK Google, let’s drive” to see the new interface, but even for people with the driving mode, it seems like it doesn’t work yet.
Driving mode (Source: XDA Developers)
In its current incarnation, Driving Mode adds a toolbar at the bottom of Google Maps with an Assistant button, a button to cycle through supported apps, and media controls. The overall design is similar to Android Auto, but the controls are moved to better match the aspect ratio of the phones.
Keep an eye out for the new driving mode as it (perhaps) starts reaching more phones. Hopefully Google will eventually untie it from Maps, so you can use alternative mapping apps like Waze.