We’re still not at the point where we can call up Google Maps on our car dashboards as we would on our smartphones, but we’re getting a lot closer to that point. Google revealed on Wednesday that Hyundai and Kia will use Google’s Send-to-Car technology to ship maps, directions and points of interest directly from smartphones into their cars’ on-board navigation systems.
Kia will tap into Google’s APIs to bring Maps and Google Places data to its UVO eServices connected car platform, which will first be available in the 2014 Kia Sorrento and 2014 Forte. Hyundai will use a similar implementation in its Blue Link connected car system, though it didn’t reveal when or in which car models.
All three companies were short on the details of their respective partnerships — and are likely waiting for the grand stage of CES next week to reveal them — but it looks like Google is acting more as technology enabler than an app developer in both cases. Instead of allowing a version of Google Maps to be downloaded into the car, both Hyundai and Kia appear to be relying on their own navigation apps. But they’re liberally pulling Google mapping and location data from the smartphone and the cloud.
In Kia’s case it’s incorporating the mapping functions into its own UVO smartphone app, which will be available on both the iPhone and Android in the next six months. Meanwhile Kia’s Microsoft-developed in-vehicle platform will host several apps that will use Google map and point-of-interest data as well as local search technology. Google said in its enterprise blog that both Kia and Hyundai would also use its voice recognition technology to find and manage their destinations.
The vehicle navigation space is definitely getting interesting as web and mobile mapping software becomes more sophisticated and more cars get mobile internet connections — either directly from the dash or via a smartphone. Google is working with several other automakers, including Audi, Daimler and Tesla to bring its cartographic, Street View and search data to the dashboard. Chevrolet is also tapping into Google Local Search to provide business and point-of-interest info in its forthcoming BringGo navigation app.
Google isn’t the only tech company looking to break into automotive. Apple announced Eyes Free with the launch of iOS 6, which allows Siri to act as the surrogate voice assistant in the connected car. GM is supporting Eyes Free in upcoming versions of MyLink in the Chevy Sonic and Spark, and several other automakers are working with Apple as well. Eyes Free isn’t a nav platform, but it could become the interface for controlling a car’s navigation system or even a future in-vehicle version of Apple Maps once it works through the app’s laundry list of bugs.