Google, VW Developing In-Car Navigation System - InformationWeek

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Google, VW Developing In-Car Navigation System

The system will display photo-quality views of the route instead of the line drawings found with most GPS devices.

Google Inc. and Volkswagen of America Inc. are developing an in-car navigation system that displays a photo-quality view of a route, instead of the typical line drawings found in current systems.

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia Corp. is also part of the project, which has produced a prototype that was shown in last month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nev. The three companies are hoping that consumers will take to seeing pictures of the stores, houses and office buildings they pass en route to a particular location.

Arne Stoschek, head of displays and sensor materials at Vokswagen's Electronic Research Lab in Palo Alto, Calif., said current navigation systems that present road maps and display directions are not the optimal way for helping people find a store in a shopping mall.

"It's not the way we actually perceive the environment," Stoschek said. "A photo representation of the surrounding environment with respect to the car is a much better way for navigation."

Rather than having to hunt for a toy store in an outdoor mall, VW drivers would be able to see the retailer's building, Stoschek said.

Neal Polachek, analyst for The Kelsey Group, said it was "premature" to say whether Google and Volkswagen, based in Auburn Hills, Mich., have a winner. The latter company declined to say when the navigation system would be available in cars, saying only that it planned to continue demonstrating the prototype at shows.

"The concept is interesting, but what happens in 12 months? Who knows?" Polachek said, noting that it's not unusual for projects to fizzle.

"Visuals of locations, however, would be very compelling. They would present a better experience than just maps," Polachek said.

Google, based in Mountain View, Calif., would provide the search engine for retrieving information from the Web to overlay on the photos, Stoschek said. Using the system's touch screen, a driver could search for the closest gas station, for example, and get back a list of several on a photo of the surrounding area, along with the price of gasoline at the different locations.

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