Here’s why Google has added Android Auto to Android Automotive

Infotainment inception actually makes a lot of sense

Android Auto
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Google’s smartphone-powered car infotainment system, called Android Auto, is now available within Google’s car-powered infotainment system, called Android Automotive.

If it wasn’t already confusing enough to explain the difference between these two systems – and Google’s naming strategy certainly doesn’t help – the company has now performed some kind of infotainment inception, and added one to the other.

As discovered by AutoEvolution, Google has an application called Android Auto Receiver, which is now a part of the latest version of Android Automotive, called OS 13. This means that, when an Android phone is plugged into a car that has Android Auto, the driver can opt to use the phone’s Android Auto system, which is Google’s rival to Apple CarPlay.

Sorry, we told you this is all rather complicated.

Thankfully, this all makes more sense than you might think. Android Automotive runs on the car itself, and only works properly when the driver logs in with their email address and Google account. They’ll then need to set up Spotify for music, and download any other apps they might need from the Play store.

android automotive polestar 2

(Image credit: Polestar)

On the other hand, Android Auto runs on your phone, so when that’s plugged into a new car you’ll instantly have access to your contacts, calendar, music, podcasts and more, via the car’s interface.

By adding one system to the other, Google now has infotainment options depending on who is driving the car.

This is the key point. If you are borrowing the car, from a friend or a hire car company, you might not want to (or have the ability to) log into Android Automotive with your email address and other credentials. But, since Android Automotive now has Android Auto too, you can plug your phone in and access all of your content that way instead, no logging in required.

As car manufacturers replace their own infotainment systems with Android Automotice, it’s good to see Google retain the option for plugging a phone in, instead of logging into the car itself. We just wish the two systems had entirely different names.

Alistair Charlton

Alistair is a freelance automotive and technology journalist. He has bylines on esteemed sites such as the BBC, Forbes, TechRadar, and of best of all, T3, where he covers topics ranging from classic cars and men's lifestyle, to smart home technology, phones, electric cars, autonomy, Swiss watches, and much more besides. He is an experienced journalist, writing news, features, interviews and product reviews. If that didn't make him busy enough, he is also the co-host of the AutoChat podcast.