Tom McNamara/Download.com

Music streaming services are in a serious fight to secure their territory, and one of their most powerful tools is sheer availability. Pandora (download for iOS or Android) is an oft-cited example; it's so ubiquitous that you can get it in cars that predate Android Auto and Apple CarPlay by several years, and it arguably pioneered the driving-friendly interfaces that are common in many mobile apps today.

Today, YouTube Music (download for iOS or Android), which relaunched in spring of last year as a competitor to the likes of Spotify, has finally joined the Android Auto ranks. This means that it will work in a compatible vehicle when Google's car tech is available, and YouTube Music will have car-friendly screen navigation when Android Auto isn't built into your ride.

SEE: Waze adds Deezer for Android to its list of in-app audio streaming services

In the latter case, you can access the car-friendly version of YouTube Music by opening the Android Auto app, tapping on the headphones icon twice and then selecting YouTube Music from the alphabetical list (assuming that you have the YouTube Music app installed and set up already).

This update to YouTube Music begins rolling out today, so it may be a few more days until your device gets the new ability. When it does, you'll be able to choose the service from within the Android Auto app when you tap on the headphones icon.

This also means that, when you're using Android Auto, you'll also be able to use voice commands with the Google Assistant (download for iOS or Android) to manage YouTube Music hands-free. So, for example, if you say, "Hey Google, play the Beatles on YouTube Music" while Android Auto is active, it will pull up the service's curated "radio station" for the Beatles that will begin playing the band's hits and those of its related contemporaries.

In fact, if YouTube Music was the last music app that you opened, you should be able to just say "Hey Google, Play the Beatles," and YouTube Music will open automatically and start streaming the Fab Four.

Note that you won't be able to search YouTube Music via the Android Auto screen interface when driving, for safety reasons. Instead, you'll be presented with a compact set of recommended playlists and new releases to choose from (or you can use Google Assistant voice commands to select specific artists, albums and songs).

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If you tap the hamburger button in the upper left, you'll get access to Your Mixtape, your most recently played tracks, your library and downloaded songs. (The Mixtape is a dynamic playlist populated by the tracks that you've recently "liked" using YouTube Music's thumbs-up button.)

So if you feel like browsing outside of the tunes that you've liked or added to your library, you'll need to do that outside of Android Auto before climbing into your car.

In YouTube Music's defense, this deliberate prevention of full catalog navigation is common among streaming services that use Android Auto. Because the more time you spend glancing down at a screen in your car, the less aware you are of the road in front of you.

Takeaways

  • The YouTube Music app for Android has just been updated to work with Android Auto. It's a gradual rollout, so it may be a few days before Google updates your phone with the new version of the mobile app.
  • Like most Android Auto-enabled streaming services, you can't browse the entire catalog for safety reasons, but you can use Google Assistant voice commands to play specific songs, albums and curated artist playlists.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.