The Google Assistant Driving mode that the company first announced in 2019 has started appearing on some Android devices. The UI looks somewhat different from what Google showed at its I/O developers conference last year. XDA says it first noticed something was coming about two weeks ago, when users reported seeing a new navigation interface in Google Maps.
Google has been relatively silent about. Driving Mode was intended to switch the phone to a minimalist interface with a single voice command, with a home page containing shortcuts to navigation, calling, music playback, and other options. Google later said Driving Mode would replace Android Auto’s on-phone mode, though the company initially said the transition would take place “in the coming months,” which didn’t quite pan out.
Earlier this month, it started to look like the long-awaited Driving Mode could end up as a feature inside Google Maps, rather than the app-independent approach of Assistant or Android Auto. It appears that functionality is being rolled out to more people, though it’s still unclear if it’s a limited test, or if Google intendeds to ship this to everyone in the coming weeks.
The new Driving Mode is accessible by tapping your photo in the Google Maps app, pressing on ‘Navigation settings,’ and finally selecting ‘Google Assistant settings’. This menu previously took you to the general Assistant settings screen (the same one accessible through Google Home, Search, etc.), but now it brings up a new panel for Driving Mode. You’re supposed to be able to say “OK Google, let’s drive” to bring up the new interface, but even for people with Driving Mode, that doesn’t appear to work yet.
Driving Mode adds a bottom toolbar to Google Maps with an Assistant button, a button to scroll through supported apps, and media controls. The general design is similar to Android Auto, but the controls are moved around to better suit the aspect ratios of phones.
To see if your device has Assistant Driving Mode, open Google Maps and from the navigation settings menu, and select “Google Assistant settings.” If it’s not enabled, you’ll be taken to the main Assistant settings section.