Why Android Auto Coolwalk mysteriously disappears for some users

Since the reliability of the new design is crucial, Google isn’t pushing the update to all devices at once. Instead, the company uses a phased rollout that gives it more time to catch bugs at an early stage.

The excitement Coolwalk is creating is huge, but there’s nothing users can do to activate the new design sooner. Therefore, waiting for Google to activate Coolwalk is often very frustrating, especially since there is no ETA.

Some users struggle with an even more mysterious behavior. After you get Coolwalk, the redesign will disappear, leaving you with the old design.

Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

How Google decides when a device gets Coolwalk
Before going into the reasons that could cause Coolwalk to disappear, it is important to know how to activate the feature.

Google is gradually rolling out the redesign specifically to collect reliability data on hardware and software configurations in cars. The process begins with a small set of configurations that include media receivers, mobile devices, and the apps installed on them. If no errors are found, Google improves availability for a given configuration.

That means more users are powered by Coolwalk with the same cell phones and head units.

An example of this is a Samsung Galaxy S22 and a Toyota RAV4. Google is initially only enabling Coolwalk for a few drivers using a Galaxy S22 in a RAV4 and trying to see if everything is working properly. If reliability data shows this to be the case, more RAV4 owners who connect an S22 to their head units will get the update. Availability will be gradually improved until everyone gets the new design.

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Because Coolwalk isn’t tied to an Android Auto version, Google allows designing for each set of devices based on the reliability data it collects.

Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

How your device knows which Android UI to load
When Coolwalk is ready for your devices, Google activates it with a server-side switch.

The code to run Coolwalk is already bundled with the latest versions of Android Auto, but it needs the right instructions to run it.

The process relies on server flags that need to be enabled by Google itself. When they’re triggered, Android Auto connects to Google’s servers and receives the necessary instructions to enable Coolwalk, only if the company approves the new design.

If the collected reliability data allows Coolwalk, your hardware configuration will be deployed with the new UI when the server instructions are retrieved. If it doesn’t, your head unit will display the old UI.

Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

Why Coolwalk sometimes disappears
It all boils down to said server flags. Android Auto periodically pings Google’s servers to find out if Coolwalk is allowed to run. So if the instructions fetched change, the new UI could be disabled.

There are many reasons why this happens.

First of all, a hardware change could trigger Coolwalk removal. If you get a new mobile device, the collected reliability data is no longer valid for your setup. Therefore, Android Auto tells the server that you have a different phone, so Google needs to determine the likelihood that your new hardware has bugs when Coolwalk is enabled.

The process can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks, but you’ll eventually get Coolwalk back.

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Then when you cleared the data from Android Auto, Coolwalk will be gone too. Many users do this to fix various errors in the app because sometimes clearing the app data also gets rid of errors. If Coolwalk is enabled, clearing the Android Auto data will also disable the redesign as the server flags are cleared. As a result, Android Auto no longer has the necessary instructions to know which interface to load, leaving it with the default interface. Currently, the default interface in Android Auto is the non-Coolwalk version.

Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

Restoring the new UI wouldn’t take long. With Android Auto regularly pinging Google for instructions, the redesigned UI should be back in just a few days. This is because your hardware configuration has already been whitelisted, so Google just has to tell your device to allow it to run Coolwalk.

Ultimately, any changes you make to your devices that are related to Android Auto could cause Coolwalk to disappear.

Google hasn’t shared timing information on Coolwalk’s widespread availability, but that phase should be reached by the end of the year. If the rollout makes the expected progress, availability should improve significantly over the coming months, meaning that the majority of users should be on Coolwalk by summer.

Of course, once Coolwalk is activated, there is no way to go back to the previous design. Some third-party methods might work, but once Coolwalk is enabled by default in Android Auto, restoring the old UI will likely be blocked.