As cars become increasingly connected, millions of drivers are using services like Android Auto to access their favorite apps and services from within their vehicle. Android Auto allows users to project their smartphone’s apps onto a car head unit, a touchscreen display that connects to an Android device via a USB lead or wirelessly.
While wireless Android Auto is certainly more convenient, it only works when you have a specific Android device (until the Android 11 update rolls out) and a supported car head unit and/or a WiFi Direct-enabled aftermarket receiver. Unfortunately, wireless Android Auto head units are somewhat limited and aftermarket wireless AA receivers can be pretty expensive.
But seasoned developer Emil Borconi, who previously developed an app to enable wireless Android Auto on wired-only head units, has teamed up with fellow developer Chiel Prins to create a plug and play dongle that enables users to turn their wired Android Auto head unit into a wireless one via its USB port.
The device has similar aims to the AAGateWay app that was previously developed by Borconi, but it is far easier for people to use. Supporting devices that run on Android 9 or above, the AAWireless dongle connects to a user’s smartphone via Bluetooth in order to establish a Wi-Fi connection and is powered entirely by a car’s USB port.
What’s great is that users should be able to connect wirelessly within 30 or 40 seconds; Emil tells us that the board itself boots up in about 8-10 seconds from its SD card (though this will improve once they switch to booting from the internal eMMC), while the phone connecting to the board via Wi-Fi and then launching Android Auto takes anywhere between 10-20 seconds depending on the phone. The dongle should work with any existing Android Auto-compatible head unit, and in terms of pricing, costs just $65 ($55 and postage). Comparable devices enabling wireless Apple CarPlay support are being sold in the region of $130, and no such similar product exists on the Android Auto side of things.
After developing and demonstrating a prototype of AAWireless, Emil and Chiel are looking to raise over $200,000 in seed funding to bring the device to market. At the time of writing, 229 people had backed the device and it’s scheduled to ship globally this fall. “The final product will be much smaller than the prototype shown. It will not include an Ethernet port, USB-A port, pins, etc and the expected size will be somewhere around 5x5x3 cm (roughly 2 x 2 x 1 inch),” wrote the developers on Indiegogo. They added: “We have made it this far with our own resources, investing a huge amount of time, effort and energy to bring this project live; but now we need your help to make it available for the masses. We have already started testing this on as many cars and units as possible. However, it’s not an easy or cheap task due to the amount of hardware needing to be tested. We are actively working to overcome shortcomings and some funds will be used for testing as many cars and head units as possible.”
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