Here’s what you can expect from the new Android Automotive 12L

Android Automotive 12L lands with Bluetooth improvements, quick controls, and better notifications

Android 12L may seem like an old hat at this point, given that it feels like Android 13 is right around the corner, but many manufacturers are still in the process of upgrading to these older Android versions. And now, Google has made the latest release of Android 12 available to car manufacturers as Android Automotive 12L, bringing a few key improvements to the in-car infotainment experience.

While the specific visuals are up to car manufacturers to implement, Android Automotive 12L is bringing a new quick controls feature to cars. This allows OEMs to bring select toggles to any part of their system UI. In practice, this would allow a manufacturer to add a Bluetooth quick toggle to the status bar, allowing drivers to change their connectivity settings with a tap rather than having to dig into the settings menu.

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Other than that, there are additional options for UI customizations and a visual overhaul for notifications, with particular improvements to grouped notifications. While specifics are up to car manufacturers here, too, you can expect that the improvements will be visible in some form or another.

The integration with car hardware is also getting tighter with this update, as it adds support for rotary controllers, like you may know from Mazda. This could provide a whole new way to interact with your Android Automotive-powered infotainment system that might be safer than touchscreen interactions.

  • System UI and core apps improvements
    • Quick Controls feature. Enables OEMs to add selected settings (for example, Bluetooth toggles) to SysUI (for example, the Status bar) to enable users to change key settings safely while driving, without opening the Settings app.
    • Rotary support. Improvements and bug fixes.
    • UI Customization. Enabled plugin architecture for custom classes. See Car UI Plugins for details.
    • Notification visual overhaul. UX overhaul and grouped notifications improvements.
  • Bluetooth
    • Improved Bluetooth reconnection performance. Automatically connect to devices more often and under the right circumstances. To learn more, see Bluetooth connection management.
    • Messaging database. Support for using a messaging database through the Message Access Profile (MAP) to provide more flexibility to messaging apps that rely on Bluetooth.
  • Connectivity
    • Per-Application Network Selection (PANS). Enable the creation and enforcement of a dynamic network policy that determines which applications can use OEM_PAID networks.
    • Dual STA. Enable the IVI to connect to an OEM restricted Wi-Fi network, concurrently with a primary connection to a Wi-Fi network.
  • Audio
    • Audio ducking signal. Provides HAL with audio focus state and information on what output devices to duck.
    • Volume improvements. Enable for finer control of volume, including providing and API to get active volume groups.
    • Muting per volume group. Enable per volume group muting and enhance HAL and UI communication about the mute states.
    • AIDL migration for the AudioControl HAL. Migrated the AudioControl HAL from HIDL to AIDL to fully use AIDL functionality.
    • Power policy handling for Audio. Enabled power handling functionality for the car audio service, including disable and enable focus requests, and mute and unmute volume groups on power policy changes for audio.
  • Camera
    • CarEvsManager. Enables OEMs to implement Android Activity that shows the preview from automotive camera services.
  • System reliability and stability
    • Car watchdog flash memory management. Manages system flash memory by limiting the amount of data written to storage. Enables OEMs to define the write thresholds (for OEM, media, and maps packages) and collect statistics for OEM applications. Disables and terminates non-critical applications and services that exceed defined thresholds.
  • Security
    • Vehicle bound encryption. Android storage encryption can now be configured to store some key encryption parameters on an external ECU. This prevents the harvesting of data by removing the head unit from the car (for example, due to theft or relegated to a junkyard).
    • Secure developer options. Android developer options and ADB can be remotely enabled exclusively by an OEM. Reference implementation provides crypto token access mechanisms and remote web service.
  • Location
    • Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) location switch. Access to device location for apps used for ADAS can now be controlled with a separate location switch in the Settings app.
  • Telemetry
    • Edge-based analytics capability. Enables the ability to perform more edge-based metrics processing on Android Automotive devices. Android infotainment and vehicle property metrics can be configured in scripts written in the Lua language and processed on-device to be sent to the backend of OEM choosing.
  • Compliance
    • Compliance fixes. A number of patches ensure compliance with the Android certification test suites. The Android 12L AAOS Release is 100% compliant on CTS, CTS-Verifier, and STS test suites on our internal reference platform with no additional fixes needed in the AOSP software.

As for Bluetooth and audio changes, the update is bringing better Bluetooth reconnection performance, which should hopefully lead to fewer connectivity hiccups. A new hardware abstraction layer makes audio ducking more reliable for navigation instructions and such, and an improved API allows manufacturers to give you finer control of volume. There is also the option to mute per volume group.

Overall, Android Automotive 12L looks like a solid upgrade that could make life easier for drivers, especially when it comes to settings shortcuts and notifications enhancements. However, it is still up to car manufacturers to update their cars with the latest release, so it might take quite a while until it’s available in the select few cars to run Automotive. Note that this isn’t an update to Android Auto, the phone connectivity option available on a lot more cars. These systems may share a similar name and a selection of great Android Auto apps, but they’re distinct.

Melissa M. Taylor

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