The Android driving mode experience of 2022

It’s near the end of 2022 and one the most used features of my phone is probably driving mode and listening to news. This is a combo of I’m guessing YouTube Music for the news/podcast portion and Maps for the driving mode. If I’m in the car I’m probably in driving mode just to mute the notifications that blare through nonstop interrupting the news or whatever I’m attempting to listen to.

At this point I probably have about 30-40 minutes a day into driving mode for the past year. Here’s what I’ve found.

TL;DR – complaints about the user experience, some found bugs, suggestions for fixes

Messaging is terrible

I’m regularly in a small MMS group and receive texts from a number of people. It’s always the same scenario, something is interesting going on in my podcast/news. I hear a ka-ting followed by a delay of about 3 and a half seconds. Assistant then tells me that auto-read is still on and I can disable it at any time. Assistant makes sure the gravity of that statement sinks in for another two seconds. I haven’t timed the whole thing but it’s somewhere between 8 seconds and two and a half hours it seems.

After that the names of the MMS group are read out. I’ve only got four people in the normal group so I get to hear their names read out. “Jerud, Kim, Paige….” followed by the name of whoever just texted. This takes about 5-7 seconds to get to what they actually say in an MMS group.

So were at maybe 20-25 seconds on the first message to get to what is actually said. It feels like longer. This first message usually, at least in my group, is a link somewhere or a picture of what needs to happen so it’s also a useless first one of the day.

But it’s not just that first message that’s a problem. I foolishly attempt to respond via voice quite a bit. Quite often I find that even with a data connection and having my voice correctly translated I get stuck trying to send a message via voice on driving mode. I can reach over, swipe back, re-send, but if I don’t force dismiss the attempting to connect in some fashion it’s just going to sit there forever.

There’s no way to mute a group from driving mode either… lemme tell you how much I enjoy getting messages that take 8-10 seconds to deliver that say “ha!”. What’s worse is when a neighborhood group I’m in starts talking and there’s no way to mute ’em. Don’t get me wrong, I want to hear what they have to say but not in the car.

Other than the sending bug, this could mostly be a smoother experience just by speeding up the initial “auto read is still on” and changing the phrasing when reading MMSs from “Jerud, Kim, Paige… Paige says….” to something smoother… there’re delays in the reading that don’t need to be there. Maybe “Paige in the group with 3 others says…” Maybe the ability to add a nickname to a group via voice while driving. It’s just clunky.

Speaking of the neighborhood group and Messenger… there’s something up with it recently where I’ve been getting notifications that “someone replied”. That’s usually been when someone thumbs-upped a message I sent earlier.

No obvious way to send a message to an MMS group that I can find. Reply yes, send initially I’m not seeing it.

The news is terrible, also terribly delivered

I listen to a lot of news channels/podcasts across the spectrum so I know this is showing on all of them, not just a one station thing. This started earlier in the year with just not being able to play something. Like BBC Minute would be announced and not play. I could skip to the next podcast and it worked. I eventually noticed when a podcast wouldn’t play quite often there was a toast that something went wrong.

Well, if something goes wrong and I’m in driving mode maybe tell me something went wrong as opposed to putting a message on a screen I’m not looking at for three and a half seconds.

I don’t know what’s going wrong, but it usually goes away… but if something went wrong, until I choose skip I’m listening to nothing.

Need a voice command to skip 30 seconds forward also. There’s a button on the screen, but I’m in a state where it’s not legal to touch that phone while driving, and I also honestly believe that button moves if I ever touch the screen because I almost always end up in the media player. I don’t need to year yet another Buzzword Bingo from EY.COM or the Geico “do you own or rent your home? Sure you do.” ad.

Controls?

This is one of those where I am not sure if it’s Google or my car. Sometimes the car’s skip / back buttons work, sometimes they don’t. I have never thought about testing while in my wife’s car so all I am certain of is with a 2014 Honda Odyssey it doesn’t play nicely with the controls when it’s in playing the news mode.

You know what to do what’s the holdup?

Quite often like with the message sending I find that I’ll ask it to do something and it just won’t. The text may sit there on screen with a rotating wait sign. Sometimes you just see that it processed it and nothing happened. As with the “something went wrong” toast I have no idea what the holdup is. Just being told to wait indefinitely or nothing happening.

Maps seems to be less intelligent

As I’m usually driving when I ask it to get me somewhere I’m not entirely sure this is on Maps, or voice recognition, but it’s not the usual great I expect. I asked it to navigate to my dad’s street about 20 minutes away the other day and it mapped a route that would take me to another state and take about 6 hours. This wasn’t the first time this had happened with addresses and I’ve generally stopped telling google where I want to go and waiting until I can type it to verify that we’re on the same page.

I also get quite a bit that “you’re back online” when driving mode is active and I’ve asked to navigate somewhere, even though I was online the entire time. Not entirely sure what’s up with that. Fun times.

Overall, still great

Got a lot of small bugs that have existed for a long time and some slight changes and it would be great. I’ve had most of these problems across two phones now, one a Samsung flagship and the other a Google Pixel 7 Pro. So it’s not one phone.

Couple of tweaks and the driving mode could be a professional product. It’s just been unpolished for so long that it’s collecting dust.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts

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