It took several years for Google to allow Android Auto head units to run third-party navigation apps instead of its own Maps service. As expected, Waze was the first on board, then more followed, including TomTom NaviGO. But all of this is done for typical drivers following a route. What if you wanted to take your 4×4 on an off-road adventure? You would need a specialized app for that, like Gaia, and now it just landed on Auto.

Gaia is a popular off-road mapping service (although it does offer trails for hikers, boaters, climbers, cyclists, and snow sports enthusiasts). Its latest beta v2021.6 adds Android Auto compatibility, so users can safely navigate their saved routes on their car’s large main unit instead of repeatedly checking their phone. Attention is crucial in these wilder environments, and it is certainly best to keep your eyes peeled on the “road”.

A help article on Gaia’s website explains everything you need to know about the app on Android Auto, but the bottom line is that you need to join the official beta of the Play Store and wait for the app to update on your phone, then log in and make sure you’ve created passable (i.e. driving view) routes on the app or site.

When you log into the Auto main unit, Gaia will be available in the launcher and display your current location as well as the six routes closest to you. You can also search for other routes or select them in the app on your phone. Start one and you will get your instructions and the details of your route. The app supports light and dark modes, has built-in assistant and various customizable card overlays. If you want to give it a try, join the beta first.

Gaia GPS: Hiking maps, off-road
Gaia GPS: Hiking maps, off-road

Photo: Micah Burma (Pexels)