Under the existing settings, Android Auto can also load the navigation app, usually Google Maps, without any user input.
This means that when you get behind the wheel and the connection between the mobile device and the head unit is established, Google Maps on Android Auto should load on the screen.
Users have long been asking for a way to disable the automatic loading of the navigation. Google itself has revealed that this is the intended behavior, as the whole idea is to make the experience easier for the driver.
Google’s design makes sense to some users, but not when it comes to drivers that don’t need navigation. Many Android Auto users rely on the app to listen to music or podcasts while driving or handle their phone calls and messages with voice commands.
As such, Google should provide settings to prevent navigation from automatically loading in vehicles when Android Auto is activated.
How Android Auto starts in cars
Android Auto instructs Google Maps to start when the app is launched. But on the other hand, the way the app works depends on the configuration of the car.
Automakers can configure how they want the Android Auto and CarPlay implementation to work in their vehicles. For example, in my car, Android Auto does not start automatically when I connect the phone to the head unit. Neither does CarPlay, as parent company defaults force the media receiver to remain on the default home screen even when Android Auto is detected.
Other car manufacturers took a different approach. When the mobile device is connected, Android Auto and CarPlay are automatically activated regardless of what you do on the screen.
This model makes more sense in the case of vehicles where built-in navigation and embedded music services do not exist. As such, automakers rely heavily on Android Auto and CarPlay for such capabilities, which is why this automatic behavior is the preferred configuration.
The best settings
Choosing the best settings comes down to how you want to use the app. Android Auto defaults to the vehicle settings.
If the media receiver doesn’t let it load automatically, Android Auto will only display the icon on the home screen. Users must then manually launch the app.
If you don’t want to use Android Auto every time you drive, especially if you prefer to stick with the preloaded navigation, then this setup is the way to go.
It goes without saying that if you prefer using Waze or Google Maps on the in-cab screen, Android Auto auto-loading is preferable.
Configure startup settings for Android Auto
Android Auto now comes with special settings that let you control the boot mode when you connect an Android smartphone to the car’s head unit.
The default setting is the one that makes perfect sense. Android Auto uses the car’s startup instructions. If the vehicle does not allow it to start automatically, Android Auto will adjust to these settings.
On the other hand, it can also override the default profile and start automatically regardless of the vehicle configuration. This is possible with two different options.
The first option you get is to enable Android Auto to always start automatically. This means that the application will be activated as soon as you connect the Android device, regardless of whether you have used it before or not. This is the right setting for users who want Android Auto on the car screen every time they drive. If Google Maps and Waze are a must-have for you, this is the way to go. The same goes for people who want to listen to Spotify via Android Auto, and those interested in handling voice calls and messages with Google Assistant.
Photo: Bogdan Popa/Car Evolution
Secondly, Google has implemented an option that allows Android Auto to launch only if it was used on the previous drive. This gives users more control over launching the app, as Android Auto will only load if the app was running when you previously turned off the engine.
In theory, this is another way to disable the automatic startup behavior. Google’s intention is to provide a bit more consistency, as Android Auto may or may not run based on your previous configuration. Use this option especially if you don’t want to use Android Auto on every drive. However, more often than not, you have to launch the app manually by tapping its icon on the home screen.
All these settings are available in the Android Auto settings screen directly on the head unit. You can find them in the “Automatically launch Android Auto” section if you’re using an up-to-date version of the app. The most recent build at the time of writing is Android Auto 9.0.