Android Auto is Google's answer to Apple CarPlay. It lets you view compatible apps from your smartphone on the car's main head unit display, leaving you to keep your eyes on the road and ultimately be a safer driver.

Google is all too aware that some people don't have an Android Auto head unit, either their car doesn't come with one, or there isn't room to install an aftermarket one. To solve this, Google announced an update for Android phones running Android 5.0 or later that will add a simplified version of Android Auto.

That update has now been pushed via Google Play, meaning you can now get a similar Android Auto experience in your car using your phone's screen, without having to connect your phone to the car's system.

The mobile version provides a simplified interface that gives you basic information from the apps it thinks you'll need: Google Maps, music and calls/messaging. You can use hands-free commands to make calls, send messages, get directions and change music tracks - and read your messages to you.

The update will also automatically connect your phone to your car's built-in Bluetooth if it has it, or a Bluetooth car mount such as the Logitech SmartCar Mount. You'll have to use voice commands to find a contact to call for example, rather than being able to use your steering wheel controls, but auto launching should make it a seamless experience.

Google says it's working on enhancing hands-free voice commands so you'll be able to carry out current commands by saying "Ok Google", no matter what app or screen is currently active. For example you could be in Maps and ask Google to change the song, without having to exit Maps.

It may only be required for Android phones that don't have Google Assistant, as Assistant can be accessed from anywhere on the phone. Some older phones require you to be on the home screen. Now that we have the Android Auto update, we'll be giving it a test and bringing you more information as soon as we can.

The Android Auto update is rolling out now but to save you constantly checking the Play Store, you can sign up on the Android Auto website to be notified when it's available to download. So far we've got it working on the Moto Z and Google Pixel phones, so suspect it will be rolling out quickly.

Sections Android Cars