Android Auto alternative

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marcjero

Senior Member
May 11, 2007
173
49
Hi,

I'm disappointed with AA. I think there is some space for an open source alternative to this system which is so closed.
Moreover the end of life of the standalone version makes me feel that Google doesn't care much about their customer experience.
I tried the Google Assistant driving mode and it's... a disaster for now.

I think it would be easy to create a great AA like launcher. But to make it succesfull there must be a community and an ecosystem around that. Apps are important even in automotive context.
Typically Waze is a key app that many drivers want.

At this time I'm wondering what is the best approach to start this kind of project. I see few show stoppers and I'm interested to get some thought from you about that.

1/ Head unit integration : long time ago I worked on the reverse engineering of the AA protocol. I discovered that the protocol is using SSL certificates. Head units holds a public key and mobile use a private key provided by Google Play Services. The problem is that these certificates have very short lifetime (about 6 months) and if I remember fine the root cerificate will expire in 2030 or something. I don't think that head unit s check the expiration date anyway (because many of them don't have system time). But for sure you need a Google private key in order to initiate communication with a head unit. The key could be captured decompiling code few years ago, don't know if it's still as simple as that.
If head unit really don't check the expiration date then it could be possible to replace the whole AA stack with an independent one.
But even if this work I'm not sure it's possible to disable the native AA protocol and take control of the USB port without rooting.

2/ Apps integration. There are 2 categories of Automotive apps : media apps and navigation apps. I think there are also a category for messaging apps.
Navigations apps are apps that provides an automotive friendly display. Waze does this for example.
Media apps are easy to integrate becaase they rely on the legacy mediabrowser APIs.
Integrating the navigation apps is tough. Because these apps are exposing a special AA service that only privileged apps can invoke (by default).
However apps dev can also allow a third party app to connect their dispkay service. This won't ever happen except if the car launcher become mainstream.
Good point is that would not require any change in implementations : it's just an access right problem.

I have seen a lot of car launchers in Play store. They all display the apps on native mode which is not what you want while driving.
Any comments to this ?
 

SOFO888

Senior Member
Jan 28, 2013
292
52
I would also like to see an alternative way...but unfortunately I did not find anything yet.

I'm also not happy with everything on Android Auto.
For example:
- I have apps (e.g. navigation) that are not compatible with Android Auto
- I can't accept Whatsapp calls on Android Auto
- The navgation of media apps is not the best way (if you want to change the playlists, there are way too many inputs necessary)
- I can't turn off Google Maps (GPS) to preserve battery and reduce heat on the phone
- I need internet (I live in a rural area...therefore sometimes I don't have internet and then in a lot of times, Android Auto just crashes...)
- I don't like Google's update policy (it's just good luck if a new version of Android Auto works stable). I want to have a working version and leave it on the phone.
 

RKCRLR

Senior Member
Jul 5, 2020
117
18
From a user standpoint I definately would like to see an AA alternative. I don't need to watch videos or anything like that but there are a few necessary apps for me that AA doesn't allow.
 

RKCRLR

Senior Member
Jul 5, 2020
117
18
There are a few Android dongles that trick the car's headunit into thinking it is connected via Android Auto. However, most of the devices are CarPlay AI units that trick the headunit into thinking is is connected to a CarPlay device and then display the Android system through the headunit. But they are all buggy.

Perhaps something can be learned from how they do that. An app that mimics Android Auto but allows full user control would be great.
 

spart0n

Senior Member
I am by no means an expert but I want to help do this! I liked using rooted devices for AA and having AA tweaker but I always felt like it was just the start of something not a finished product so I'm definitely down with this. What I feel like would be the simplest approach would be making an Android auto app that (it communicates with your phone and doesn't need data) runs on a cheap tablet that you put on your dash or wherever in the car and from there you have full control over the app and device. Just my thoughts
 

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  • 3
    Hi,

    I'm disappointed with AA. I think there is some space for an open source alternative to this system which is so closed.
    Moreover the end of life of the standalone version makes me feel that Google doesn't care much about their customer experience.
    I tried the Google Assistant driving mode and it's... a disaster for now.

    I think it would be easy to create a great AA like launcher. But to make it succesfull there must be a community and an ecosystem around that. Apps are important even in automotive context.
    Typically Waze is a key app that many drivers want.

    At this time I'm wondering what is the best approach to start this kind of project. I see few show stoppers and I'm interested to get some thought from you about that.

    1/ Head unit integration : long time ago I worked on the reverse engineering of the AA protocol. I discovered that the protocol is using SSL certificates. Head units holds a public key and mobile use a private key provided by Google Play Services. The problem is that these certificates have very short lifetime (about 6 months) and if I remember fine the root cerificate will expire in 2030 or something. I don't think that head unit s check the expiration date anyway (because many of them don't have system time). But for sure you need a Google private key in order to initiate communication with a head unit. The key could be captured decompiling code few years ago, don't know if it's still as simple as that.
    If head unit really don't check the expiration date then it could be possible to replace the whole AA stack with an independent one.
    But even if this work I'm not sure it's possible to disable the native AA protocol and take control of the USB port without rooting.

    2/ Apps integration. There are 2 categories of Automotive apps : media apps and navigation apps. I think there are also a category for messaging apps.
    Navigations apps are apps that provides an automotive friendly display. Waze does this for example.
    Media apps are easy to integrate becaase they rely on the legacy mediabrowser APIs.
    Integrating the navigation apps is tough. Because these apps are exposing a special AA service that only privileged apps can invoke (by default).
    However apps dev can also allow a third party app to connect their dispkay service. This won't ever happen except if the car launcher become mainstream.
    Good point is that would not require any change in implementations : it's just an access right problem.

    I have seen a lot of car launchers in Play store. They all display the apps on native mode which is not what you want while driving.
    Any comments to this ?
    2
    I would also like to see an alternative way...but unfortunately I did not find anything yet.

    I'm also not happy with everything on Android Auto.
    For example:
    - I have apps (e.g. navigation) that are not compatible with Android Auto
    - I can't accept Whatsapp calls on Android Auto
    - The navgation of media apps is not the best way (if you want to change the playlists, there are way too many inputs necessary)
    - I can't turn off Google Maps (GPS) to preserve battery and reduce heat on the phone
    - I need internet (I live in a rural area...therefore sometimes I don't have internet and then in a lot of times, Android Auto just crashes...)
    - I don't like Google's update policy (it's just good luck if a new version of Android Auto works stable). I want to have a working version and leave it on the phone.
    2
    From a user standpoint I definately would like to see an AA alternative. I don't need to watch videos or anything like that but there are a few necessary apps for me that AA doesn't allow.