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Get started with Auto

Android Auto extends the Android platform into the car. When users connect their handheld devices running Android 5.0 or higher to a compatible vehicle, the Auto user interface provides a car-optimized Android experience on the vehicle's screen. Users interact with compatible apps and services through voice actions and the vehicle's input controls (like a touchscreen or dashboard buttons).

Android Auto is also available on phone screens, giving users the full Android Auto experience entirely on the phone without needing to connect to a compatible vehicle. With this standalone, handheld version of Android Auto, users can still use voice to handle calls, messages, music, and navigation, using an interface designed for driving.

Auto currently supports two types of apps:

  • Audio apps that allow users to browse and play music and spoken audio content in the car.
  • Messaging apps that receive incoming notifications, read messages aloud via text-to-speech, and send replies via voice input in the car.

You can enable your existing audio and messaging apps developed for phones and tablets to work in the car, without having to worry about vehicle-specific hardware differences. To enable your app for Auto, your app must target Android 5.0 (API level 21) or higher. Adding support for Android Auto to your existing app will enable it to work on both car and phone screens. Android Auto handles most of the work to adjust each application's user interface to the screen on which it is displayed. Your app’s manifest must also declare the car capabilities that it uses, such as audio playback or messaging services.

Figure 1. Android Auto Home screen on dashboard.

Figure 2. Android Auto Home screen on phone.

This lesson describes how to start building apps for Auto, including setting up your development environment and meeting the minimum requirements to enable an app to communicate with Auto.

Set up an Auto project

This section describes how to create a new app or modify an existing app to communicate with Auto.

Prerequisites

Before you begin building apps for Auto, you must:

Declare Auto capabilities

The settings in your app manifest and a separate XML configuration file control the Auto features that your app can access. Before adding Auto features to your app, you must first define the Auto XML configuration file and add a manifest entry referencing your XML file.

Define the Auto XML configuration file

Specify the car capabilities that your app uses in an XML file that you place in your project’s resources directory (res/xml/). For example, to extend an audio application for Auto, create a file called automotive_app_desc.xml and store it under your projects’s res/xml/ folder. The automotive_app_desc.xml file contains the following metadata:

<automotiveApp>
   <uses name="media" />
</automotiveApp>

The <uses> element declares the Auto capability your app intends to use. If your application uses multiple car capabilities, you can add multiple <uses> tags. The name attribute indicates the specific capability your app uses. The values supported are:

  • media - The app uses the Android framework APIs to play music in a vehicle. Set this value if you are enabling an audio app for Auto.
  • notification - The app displays message notifications in the car’s Home screen, allows users to select messages to be read aloud, and lets them respond through voice input. Set this value if you are enabling a messaging app for Auto.

Add a manifest entry

In your app’s manifest (AndroidManifest.xml), provide a reference to the Auto XML configuration file you created in the previous section. Add a "com.google.android.gms.car.application" metadata entry under the <application> element that references your Auto XML configuration file. Omit the .xml file extension when specifying the configuration filename.

The following code snippet shows how to include this reference in your manifest.

<application>

    ...
    <meta-data android:name="com.google.android.gms.car.application"
     android:resource="@xml/automotive_app_desc"/>

</application>

Add Auto features to your apps

After you complete the steps described above, you're ready to add Auto features to your apps. See these additional topics to help you build apps for Auto:

Important: Google takes driver distraction very seriously. Your app must meet specific design requirements to qualify as an Auto app on Google Play. By adhering to these requirements, you can reduce the effort for building and testing your app. For more information, see Auto app quality.

See also