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Summary:

Google and GM plan to connect the automaker’s in-vehicle communications system with phones running on Google’s Android operating system, GM announced Tuesday. It all starts with a beefed up app for the Chevy Volt that will use Google tech for location-based services.

Google and General Motors plan to connect the automaker’s in-vehicle communications system, OnStar, with phones running on Google’s Android operating system, GM announced early Tuesday. It all starts with a beefed-up mobile app for the Chevy Volt, an extended-range electric vehicle scheduled to roll out later this year.

Back in January, GM announced that the Volt would roll out equipped for remote control of certain vehicle functions via BlackBerry Storm, iPhone or Droid smartphones. According to the automaker’s release Tuesday, a 2.0 version version of the app for Android phones will incorporate new location-based services using Google technology.

Word of this new partnership between GM and Google comes on the heels of Ford and Microsoft announcing plans to put their longstanding alliance (Microsoft developed Ford’s Sync communication system) to work on smart charging for electric vehicles. Ford plans to use Microsoft’s Hohm tool to minimize energy costs for drivers of upcoming electric Ford models, and to help limit strain on the power grid for utilities.

More details about how GM aims to deploy Google’s technology will come out this week in a demo at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco. But the automaker says it has added a new navigation tool to the existing Volt mobile app built for Android phones. The tool will use Google’s voice search, provide vehicle tracking and access to Google Maps, and allow Volt owners to send destination info from their Android phone to their car’s OnStar navigation system for turn-by-turn directions.

OnStar President Chris Preuss commented in a statement today that the Volt app is only a first step in a larger effort to expand OnStar beyond safety and security services. The relationship with Google, he said, “is an example of how we’re evolving our leadership position in connected vehicle technology,” adding, “What we’re talking about today is only the beginning.”

When the Volt launches, version 1.0 of the mobile app will include functions specific to needs anticipated for new electric vehicle drivers. Through their phones, early adopters of the Volt will be able to schedule battery charge times, view whether or not the vehicle is plugged in, check voltage at a charger, get text notifications of interruption or completion of a battery charge and view miles per gallon, electric miles and miles driven — cumulatively and for the last trip (the Volt has a small gas engine that kicks in when the battery charge drops below a set threshold).

For GM, the so-called OnStar Mobile Application could be a key part of marketing the vehicle to gadget-minded consumers. The automaker has said that with this app, the Volt “showcases technology beyond the battery,” something GM needs to do to go beyond niche markets for a $40,000 plug-in sedan. As Andrew Farah, vehicle chief engineer for the Chevy Volt, has put it, “Our whole goal here is to put together a great vehicle for customers, not just a battery on wheels.”

Could the Google/Android link lead to a connection between Google’s energy management tool PowerMeter and GM’s Chevy Volt? At our Green:Net conference, when we asked Google’s Ed Lu if Google had plans to connect PowerMeter with electric vehicle charging (see video around minute 12), he said Google has “a lot of plans in a lot of areas” that he couldn’t yet talk about.

Photo courtesy of General Motors

Related research on GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

Why Microsoft’s Electric Vehicle Deal With Ford Matters

Location-Based Services: From Mobile to Mobility

  1. gwenmcgreen Tuesday, May 18, 2010

    Wow! This is like war. Competition between the big and powerful companies and industries is becomming stronger everyday. And what surprises me the most is the fact that the competition and the disgreements are not only between companies of the same business area, working with the same product/service, but from totally different business types, that somehow meet in their paths when some application is made for another kind of product, like in the case of the article. Business competition is much more complex than what one might think at first and this article leaves that very clear.
    Thanks for sharing.

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  2. I’ve been in the IT industry for a long time now and all I can say abou the future is that it has “Google” written all over it.

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  3. The Internet giants are picking car company partners. What will be the winning team?

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    1. None if this trend continues.

      Just what I want, google in my email, news, books, email, phone and now car.

      I think this is good for GM in the near term, but bad for the ability to diversify their tech to multiple platforms in the future.

      It is interesting that while personal and mobile computing is becoming much more diverse, application specific computing (such as in vehicle) is becoming more platform specific.

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  4. Referring to this as a “partnership” seems premature. GM is debuting the app at the Google I/O conference, so logically they would and should emphasize the Google technologies being used, but there’s no indication app development won’t continue for other platforms.

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  5. Seems like every smartphone OS is trying to hookup with a car manufacturer. . . wonder if this will cause major fractioning or the car companies will settle on a standard?

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  6. This Volt example shows that a company that is more willing to work with other companies, not so restricting with its products, get more widely adopted, than a company that’s a paranoid control freak. Android is to mobile, what Windows is to desktop and enterprise

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  7. OnStar: Where GM meets DHS

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  8. [...] No Comments        0 General Motors’ announcement this week that it plans to link up with Google (s GOOG) to provide a set of location-based services to owners of the upcoming electric vehicle the [...]

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