Build a navigation app

This section details the different features of the library that you can make use of to implement the functionality of your turn-by-turn navigation app.

Declare navigation support in your manifest

Your navigation app needs to declare the car app category in the intent filter of its CarAppService:

        <action android:name="" />
        <category android:name=""/>

Support navigation intents

In order to support navigation Intents to your app, including those coming from the Google Assistant using a voice query, your app needs to handle the CarContext.ACTION_NAVIGATE intent in its Session.onCreateScreen and Session.onNewIntent.

See the documentation of CarContext.startCarApp for details on the format of the intent.

Access the navigation templates

Navigation apps can access the following templates specifically designed for navigation apps. All these templates display a surface in the background that your app can access in order to draw your map, alongside other information provided by your app which varies per template.

  • NavigationTemplate: displays the map along with an optional informational message or routing directions and travel estimates during active navigation.
  • PlaceListNavigationTemplate: displays a list of places that can have corresponding markers drawn in the map.
  • RoutePreviewNavigationTemplate: displays a list of routes one of which can be selected and highlighted in the map.

For more details on how to design your navigation app’s user interface using those templates, see the Android for Cars App Library Design Guidelines.

In order to get access to the navigation templates, your app needs to declare the permission in its AndroidManifest.xml:

<uses-permission android:name=""/>

Drawing the Map

Navigation applications can access a Surface to draw the map on relevant templates.

A SurfaceContainer object can then be accessed by setting a SurfaceCallback instance to the AppManager car service:





The SurfaceCallback provides a callback when the SurfaceContainer is available along with other callbacks when the properties of the Surface change.

In order to get access to the surface, your app needs to declare the permission in its AndroidManifest.xml:

<uses-permission android:name=""/>

The map’s visible area

The host may draw user interface elements for the different templates on top of the map. The host will communicate the area that is guaranteed to be unoccluded and fully visible to the user by calling the SurfaceCallback.onVisibleAreaChanged method. Also, in order to minimize the number of changes, the host will also call the SurfaceCallback.onStableAreaChanged method with the smallest rectangle, which will always be visible based on the current template.

For example, when a navigation app is using the NavigationTemplate with an action strip on top, the action strip may hide itself when the user has not interacted with the screen for a while to make more space for the map. In this case, there will be a callback to onStableAreaChanged and onVisibleAreaChanged with the same rectangle. When the action strip is hidden, only onVisibleAreaChangedwill be called with the larger area. If the user interacts with the screen, then again only onVisibleAreaChanged is called with the first rectangle.

Dark mode

Navigation applications must redraw their map onto the Surface instance with the proper dark colors when the host determines that conditions warrant it, as described in the Android Auto app quality guidelines.

In order to decide on whether you should draw a dark map you can use the CarContext.isDarkMode method. Whenever the dark mode status changes, you will receive a call to Session.onCarConfigurationChanged.

Navigation applications must communicate additional navigation metadata with the host. The host makes use of the information to provide information to the vehicle head unit and to prevent navigation applications from clashing over shared resources.

Navigation metadata is provided through the NavigationManager car service accessible from the CarContext:


val navigationManager = carContext.getCarService(


NavigationManager navigationManager = carContext.getCarService(NavigationManager.class);

Starting, ending, and stopping navigation

In order for the host to manage multiple navigation apps, routing notifications, and vehicle cluster data, it needs to be aware of the current state of navigation. When a user starts navigation, the app should call NavigationManager.navigationStarted. Similarly, when navigation ends, for example when the user arrives at their destination or the user cancels navigation, the app should call NavigationManager.navigationEnded.

You should only call NavigationManager.navigationEnded when the user is finished navigating. For example, if you need to recalculate the route in the middle of a trip, use Trip.Builder.setLoading(true) instead.

Occasionally, the host will need an app to stop navigation and will call stopNavigation in a NavigationManagerListener object provided by your app through NavigationManager.setListener. The app must then stop issuing next-turn information in the cluster display, navigation notifications, and voice guidance.

Trip information

During active navigation, the app should call NavigationManager.updateTrip. The information provided in this call will be used in the vehicle’s cluster and heads-up displays. Not all information may be displayed to the user depending on the particular vehicle being driven. For example, the Desktop Head Unit shows the Step added to the Trip, but does not show the Destination information.

In order to test that the information is reaching the cluster the Desktop Head Unit (DHU) tool can be configured to show a simple cluster display. Create an cluster.ini file with the following contents:

instrumentcluster = true

You can then invoke the DHU with an additional command line parameter:

dhu -c cluster.ini

Turn-by-turn notifications

The turn-by-turn (TBT) navigation instructions can be given with a frequently updated navigation notification. In order to be treated as a navigation notification in the car screen, your notification's builder must do the following:

  1. Mark the notification as ongoing with the NotificationCompat.Builder.setOngoing method.
  2. Set the notification’s category to Notification.CATEGORY_NAVIGATION.
  3. Extend the notification with a CarAppExtender.

A navigation notification will be displayed in the rail widget at the bottom of the car screen. If the notification's importance level is set to IMPORTANCE_HIGH, it will also be displayed as a heads-up notification (HUN). If the importance is not set with the CarAppExtender.Builder.setImportance method, the notification channel's importance will be used.

The app can set a PendingIntent in the CarAppExtender that will be sent to the app when the user taps on the HUN or the rail widget.

If NotificationCompat.Builder.setOnlyAlertOnce is called with a value of true, a high-importance notification will alert only once in the HUN.

The following snippet shows how to build a navigation notification:


NotificationCompat.Builder(context, NOTIFICATION_CHANNEL_ID)


new NotificationCompat.Builder(context, NOTIFICATION_CHANNEL_ID)
        new CarAppExtender.Builder()
                    new Intent(ACTION_OPEN_APP).setComponent(
                        new ComponentName(context, MyNotificationReceiver.class)),

Guidelines for turn-by-turn notifications

Navigation apps should update the TBT notification regularly on distance changes, which updates the rail widget, and only show the notification as a HUN. Apps can control the HUN behavior by setting the notification's importance with the CarAppExtender.Builder.setImportance method. Setting the importance to IMPORTANCE_HIGH will show a HUN, and setting it to any other value will only update the rail widget.

Voice guidance

To play navigation guidance over the car speakers your app must request audio focus. As a part of your AudioFocusRequest you should set the usage as AudioAttributes.USAGE_ASSISTANCE_NAVIGATION_GUIDANCE. You should also set the focus gain as AudioManager.AUDIOFOCUS_GAIN_TRANSIENT_MAY_DUCK.

Simulating navigation

In order to verify your app's navigation functionality when submitting it to the Google Play Store, your app must implement the NavigationManagerCallback.onAutoDriveEnabled callback. When this callback is called, your app should simulate navigation to the chosen destination when the user begins navigation. Your app can exit this mode whenever the current Session's lifecycle reaches the Lifecycle.Event.ON_DESTROY state.

You can test that your implementation of onAutoDriveEnabled is called by executing the following from a command line:

adb shell dumpsys activity service CAR_APP_SERVICE_NAME AUTO_DRIVE

For example:

adb shell dumpsys activity service AUTO_DRIVE

Default navigation car app

In Android Auto, the default navigation car app corresponds to the last navigation app that the user launched. This is the app that, for example, will receive navigation intents when the user invokes navigation commands through the assistant or when another app sends an intent to start navigation.

Allow users to interact with your map

From Car App API level 2 onwards, you can add zooming and panning to your map in the NavigationTemplate to allow users to see different parts of the map.

SurfaceCallback methods

The SurfaceCallback has three callback methods that enable you to add map interactivity to your NavigationTemplate: onScale, onScroll, and onFling. See the table below for how these callbacks relate to user interactions.

Interaction SurfaceCallback method
Pinch (zoom) onScale
Single-touch drag onScroll
Single-touch fling onFling
Double-tap onScale (with a scale factor determined by the template host)
Rotary nudge in Pan mode onScroll (with a distance factor determined by the template host)

Map action strip

The NavigationTemplate can have a map action strip for map-related actions such as zoom in and out, recenter, display a compass, or any other actions your app may choose to display. The map action strip can have up to four icon-only buttons that can be refreshed without impacting task depth. Similar to the Action Strip, the map action strip will hide during idle state and reappear on active state.

To receive map interactivity callbacks, you must add an Action.PAN button in the map action strip. If your app omits the Action.PAN button in the map action strip, you will not receive user input from the SurfaceCallback methods and the host will exit any previously activated pan mode. When the user presses the pan button, the host enters pan mode. On a touchscreen, the pan button will not be displayed.

Pan mode

In pan mode, the template host translates user input from non-touch input devices, such as rotary controllers and touchpads, into the appropriate SurfaceCallback methods. Respond to the user action to enter or exit pan mode with the setPanModeListener method in the NavigationTemplate Builder. The host may hide other UI components in the template while the user is in pan mode.

Stable area

The stable area is updated between idle and active state. Your app should draw driving-related information such as speed, speed limit, or road warnings depending on the size of the stable area so that important information on the map doesn’t get occluded by the map action strip.