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Android for Cars overview

Bring your app to vehicles running either Android Auto or Android Automotive OS. Use one app architecture that works for both cases so every user can enjoy your app.

Android Auto

Android Auto provides a driver-optimized app experience for users with an Android phone and the Android Auto app, but who do not have a vehicle that uses Android Automotive OS. If a user's car or aftermarket stereo system supports Android Auto, they can use your app directly on their car's display by connecting their phone.

You enable Android Auto to connect with your phone app by creating services that Android Auto uses to display a driver-optimized interface to the driver. You reuse these services for your Android Automotive OS app, but users do not install your phone app on their cars.

Android Auto already has millions of users and hundreds of compatible cars and aftermarket stereo systems.

Android Auto user interface

Figure 1. Android Auto—powered by a phone and running on a car.

Android Automotive OS

Android Automotive OS is an Android-based infotainment system that is built in to vehicles. The car's system is a stand-alone Android device that is optimized for driving.

Instead of using your phone app, users install your app directly onto the head unit. Your app must include a media browser service (see Build media apps for cars for instructions). You can use the same media browser service with both Android Automotive OS and Android Auto, however there are some activities such as sign-in and settings that you must design specifically for Android Automotive OS. For more information, see Adapt sign-in flow and Design settings in the Android Automotive OS app design guidelines.

Automotive OS user interface

Figure 2. Android Automotive OS running on a car.

Supported app categories

Android Auto and Android Automotive OS support two types of apps:

Media apps
Media apps let users browse and play music, radio, audiobooks, and other audio content in the car. You can build, test, and distribute media apps on Android Auto. You can also build and test media apps for Android Automotive OS (distribution on Android Automotive OS is coming soon). See Build media apps for cars for more information.
Messaging apps
Messaging apps let users receive incoming notifications, read messages aloud using text-to-speech, and send replies via voice input in the car. You can build, test, and distribute messaging apps on Android Auto. See Build messaging apps for Android Auto for more information.
Navigation, parking, and charging apps (Beta)
Navigation, parking, and charging apps help users get where they want to go, find a place to park, or locate the nearest charging station. To develop these types of apps, you use the Android for Cars App Library, which is currently in beta. You can design, develop, and test these apps for Android Auto, but you can't distribute them through the Google Play Store yet. We will make announcements in the future when you can distribute these apps through the Google Play Store. See Build navigation, parking, and charging apps for Android Auto for more information.

Additional resources

To learn more about Android for Cars, see the following additional resources.