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Google owns Waze, a popular car navigation app with crowd-sourced traffic data. Google also owns Android Auto, an in-car Android interface that makes it safe and easy to use apps in the car. You would think Waze would have ended up on Android Auto pretty quickly. You’d be wrong.
After showing off Waze Android Auto integration at Google I/O 2016 (yes, over a year ago), the integration has finally launched—in beta, at least. Android Police reports that after an April beta sign-up, real, working code has finally gone out to beta testers. (You can sign up here to be one of those testers if you’d like.)
Waze on Android Auto has most of the things you would expect from Waze. You can navigate to a destination and see live traffic data from other Waze users (most of this data is also in Google Maps). You can also report accidents, slowdowns, police checkpoints, hazards, and speed cameras.
Waze on Android Auto is interesting not just for Waze users, but for any user of Android Auto—it’s the first Android Auto app with “full pixel control” over what shows up on the car screen. Due to safety regulations, Android Auto apps are mostly limited to two simple types: audio apps and messaging apps. Google provides the UI template for these apps, and developers can “plug-in” to this UI with custom content (basically a media stream and icons for audio apps, and a messaging delivery service for messaging apps).
However, it is apparently possible to write a “real” app for Android Auto. At I/O 2017, Google showed off a slide with a pyramid of Android Auto app development styles, and after the “templated” development style that Android Auto apps use today, there was a “full app” section at the top. Google stated Waze was the first app to use this “full pixel control” capability, but it never told the room full of app developers how they could make a full Android Auto app themselves. It seems like you have to be big enough to cut a deal with Google to make a full app on Android Auto happen.
In the interface, Waze lives under the “navigation” button that usually brings up Google Maps. Just as with the music button, having multiple navigation apps adds a little arrow next to the icon, and tapping it twice will bring up an app switcher for that app category.
Given the glacial pace of this rollout, there’s no telling when the beta status for Waze will be over. Judging by the “known issues” documentation and the comments section on Android Police, it seems like there’s still a lot of issues with the integration, but at least it’s something.