Trajectory — EV smart charging insights by AXSO

Android Auto: the simplicity challenge

Robert Polovitzer

Now I know how Steve Wozniak and the other 1970s computer pioneers felt when they only had a few kilobytes of memory to code with. That’s pretty much the same issue I faced with Android Auto in 2021!

After developing Apple CarPlay connectivity last year, we had to also offer Android Auto to our users.  But the Navigation category was opened to third party developers by Google only recently. For the time being they only have limited maneuvering room on the platform and need to make careful choices.

My understanding is these limitations are there because Google wants to proceed slowly in this new category, and also for reasons of safety behind the wheel. You can’t just go developing whatever you want for the screen in a vehicle. Their reasoning is probably of a legal and regulatory nature as much as technical and commercial.

Whatever the reasons, it presents us with quite the challenge.

For instance, while Apple CarPlay lets us refresh the list of closest charging stations in real time, Android only lets us display a static list. That’s not ideal for an app that’s supposed to tell us where we should stop when we’re actually in transit. Only once the user is stopped can they access the menu and refresh the list.

Six is the magic number

Navigation apps must be built on one of seven models Google has suggested. The amount of transmitted data is also capped. We’ve had to make some tough choices, but the end result is still a pretty handy tool for EV drivers.

We stuck to the essentials, providing drivers with either the six closest stations (frozen from the last time they looked at it, that is), the person’s six favourite stations, or the last six stations visited. See a pattern here? Evidently 6 is the magic number with Android Auto – that’s the extent of its generosity in terms of real estate.

Google Maps and Waze, Google apps available on Android Auto, have visibly fewer constraints. But they’ve been in use for quite a while and, once again, Google has its reasons for limiting what we can do with them.

Finally, AXSO’s now had Android Auto since April 2021, and we’ll continue to expand on the work we started.  Lots of navigation app suppliers, including some well-known names, are still telling their users that their services cannot be used with Android Auto. We’ve demonstrated that it is possible; you just have to make sure the product delivers a certain minimum value despite the sacrifices.