What it’s like to talk to Google while driving the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2

I never imagined a future where we would talk to bots all day. In a recent car test, I never imagined I would do that while hauling leaves up to the local compost site.

The 2023 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 has a built-in feature that, very surprisingly, does not require a phone to use. Google Assistant is available at all times, even for people like me who frequently leave their phone on the kitchen counter.

This is more impressive than you might think. Over the last few years, connectivity in cars has relied more and more on you being the one who provides the connection from your phone, usually by connecting over a wired or wireless connection and using either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. That has left a feeling in the industry, in my opinion, that carmakers have handed the innovation in terms of connectivity over to Apple and Google.

That’s about to change, as GM announced recently they would phase out CarPlay and Android Auto. One of the main reasons has to do with driver distraction. According to one report, drivers with connection or compatibility issues tend to pick up their phone and try to work out the problem while they are driving. Bad idea. 

Google Assistant is available in the Chevy Colorado and is accessible with a press of the icon. That means you don’t have to fish for your phone — ever — and that the connectivity and reliability of this service is really dependent on Chevy and not on the phone manufacturer.

I have to say, as cars become much more advanced, especially in the EV market, this makes a lot of sense. The car becomes the phone. We think of having a phone as being the latest in technology, but it might be the old guard. What’s coming is that our cars and homes connect faster, more reliably, and using voicebots and AI — no phone needed.

I tested Google Assistant many times and found myself accessing it more often because I didn’t need to think about my phone. Actually, I discovered that the Assistant didn’t need my phone by accident. I’m so used to needing my phone that I assumed it wouldn’t work when I forgot my phone one day. Turns out it worked just fine.

I did a lot more than ask about the weather. I set several reminders and asked about directions to that compost site. I also started a conversation with the bot just for fun to find out more about the Colorado itself (“How much does the Chevy Colorado cost?”) and everything worked great.

I remember the time a passenger joined me on a road trip once and when we first started out, asked Alexa for something. I laughed — Alexa doesn’t work in a car, I exclaimed. Funny, because not only does Alexa work in many models, but now Google Assistant works without a phone. Bots are here to stay, and they will quickly become more and more advanced in light of the innovations at OpenAI with ChatGBT.

In the near future, we will be asking cars to check the oil level, calculate complex routes through traffic and ask about accidents, prompt bots to write a business report on our way to work (and have that actually work by the time we arrive) and much more.

In the Chevy Colorado, it’s not only in the near future. It worked for my leaf-hauling day like a champ.