How to fix stubborn GPS problems in Android Auto using Google Maps

Google Maps and Android Auto should be a pretty good match since both are developed and maintained by the same company. However, users have been increasingly reporting issues with Google Maps in Android Auto not working as it should, with GPS issues being the main issue.

In recent weeks, Google Maps has seemingly taken on some new quirks when used in conjunction with Android Auto. It would be difficult to call these quirks bugs; Rather, it looks like Android Auto and Google Maps have stopped playing well together, leading to issues like wrong or incorrect GPS locations that can lead to last-second route changes and an extremely frustrating experience. While we initially saw GPS errors in January, it looks like the problem isn’t getting any better.

Users on Reddit have started reporting these issues first-hand. Within our own team, both Ben Schoon and I have noticed these issues which make for a difficult travel experience to say the least. From videos posted in the aforementioned thread, it’s clear that Android Auto and Google Maps just don’t communicate well. Luckily, there are some methods you can try to fix these issues.

How to fix Google Maps GPS problems

Unfortunately, when an app is struggling in Android Auto, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what problem you’re having. If you’re just having trouble using Google Maps, it’s probably on the side of the app. If you’re also having GPS issues while using apps like Waze, it might be due to Android Auto.

Configure your location permissions

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With Android Auto, you generally power the device with your phone, and that device acts as the processor for the display in your vehicle. However, some head units have a GPS antenna that allows you to pinpoint a location on maps, while your phone can also be used. This GPS handshake is believed to be the cause of some location issues.

On your phone, open the app drawer and long-tap on the Google Maps icon. Tap App info or the info button. Look for Permissions and tap on it. Click Location. Always switch to Allow.

This gives Google Maps the closest chance to pinpoint your location, as long as Android Auto is using your phone’s location and not the units. It’s reasonable to think that Android Auto will treat Maps as a background app even when it’s in use. If you set the location to always, this data can be shared even if Maps is not active on your device.

To take it a step further, you can perform the same process for the Android Auto app on your device and disable location permissions, which would theoretically prevent Android Auto from even attempting to use the head unit’s antenna. You should also make sure your phone isn’t using a “battery saver mode” to restrict apps running in the background.

Is this Android Auto and Google Maps GPS problem just a bug?

This fix works in the event that Android Auto has a bug where it probably has trouble distinguishing between the two merged GPS data. It could also be that the two sets of data don’t correlate, causing Google Maps to sort of freak out. The two opposing data signals could thus cause a crunch in the gears. Disabling the head unit’s GPS capabilities will only allow you to run Maps using your phone’s GPS until the issue can be fixed in an OTA update.

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We recently had some of our own Map and Android Auto experiences that would lead us to believe that this could be a new Android Auto bug. An example is the sudden freakout seen in the Reddit thread above. The same problem is known to exist with our own units, although the solution was to take the phone we were using at the time out of our pocket and place it on the dashboard. Taking the phone to a place where there was a clear line of sight can fix the problem instantly.

While trying to place your phone somewhere where it can get a clear signal while driving isn’t ideal, it does appear to be an important piece of this weird Android Auto puzzle. Until the bug can be fixed and presumably the handshake between the GPS signals in both the phone and the head unit can be fixed, setting Android Auto to only use your phone’s GPS signal seems to be the most important solution .

Let us know in the comments if you have the same problem and if you were able to fix it.

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