You obviously shouldn’t be using your phone while you’re operating your vehicle, but in situations where you are safely pulled over and need to access your mobile device, Google has made things a bit easier for you. The company has just added an update to Android Auto which allows users to swipe in order to unlock their smartphones while the car communication app is active.
Previously, anytime your mobile device was connected to the hands-free service, your phone was effectively a brick, incapable of doing anything (good for safety reasons, but not so great for more practical reasons). With this update, if you now need to check your phone, you don’t have to disconnect from the driving system just to get to your home screen.
Once you’ve enabled this new functionality, you’ll see a new car mode after you’ve unlocked your phone’s lockscreen. Rather than just seeing the Android Auto logo — which used to be the end of the road — you’ll now also have the option to “Swipe up to unlock.” This means that anytime your phone is paired with an Android Auto head unit, you can hit the home button after using your actual handset, and you’ll return to this splash screen. If you swipe up again, you can get back to your home screen.
Google has yet to formally announce the availability of the new feature, and it seems reasonable that it wouldn’t want to make a big fuss out of the functionality. After all, part of the rationale behind Android Auto and Car Mode was to reduce distracted driving by making it effectively impossible to really use your smartphone while driving. Of course, that also created quite the inconvenience in emergency situations, when you really did need to access your phone. This, however, seems like a decent workaround that should still discourage texting (or otherwise playing with your phone) when driving, while allowing folks to use their phones without having to jump through several hoops.
It’s likely that you won’t have access to the feature in the immediate future — after all, it would appear that the feature is only just beginning to roll out, so it may reach different users at different times.