Android Auto looks good, but I don’t have the cash to shell out for a new car or an expensive aftermarket head unit. What I do have is a phone that’s more powerful, more useful, and more customizable than most screens wedged into the dashboard. That gave me an idea.

About 8 months ago I started driving more. That meant more navigating, more podcasts, more text messages to my wife, and, honestly, more distractions. There were things I was doing all the time that involved too many taps and swipes and typing. It wasn’t just tedious, it was dangerous. So I decided to build my own solution.

I’m the lead Android developer at Automatic, and one of the perks of the job is being able to devote some time to pet projects. So over the course of a few months I started developing my own custom dashboard that would launch as soon as I started my car.

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Widgets and shortcuts are some of the best things Android has to offer, so rather than reinventing the wheel, I made a simple launcher with a map up top and a space below to place the apps and widgets I use every day. Podcast and music players, one-touch voice memos, pay-for-parking apps, auto-navigation to home or work – by tapping into the treasure trove of Android widgets I could do things quickly and easily and then get back to what’s important: driving.

It took a couple solid weeks of work, but the first version of AutoDash is out now. You don’t need an Automatic adapter for it to work, and even better, it’s free.

Check it out and tell me what you think.