Google Shrinks Another Market With Free Turn-By-Turn Navigation

Google has announced a free turn-by-turn navigation system for Android 2.0 phones such as the Droid. Google Maps Navigation is only available in the US right now. Google’s release of a navigation is huge, but not unexpected blow to Tomtom (owner of former US mapping data partner Tele Atlas (Radar post)), Nokia (owner of mapping data provider NAVTEQ), Garmin and other personal navigation devices (PNDs). That it is free will fundamentally change the industry (and sell a lot of Android 2.0 phones in the process). Assuming that Google Maps Navigation makes it onto the iPhone and Blackberry platforms it will become a race to the bottom for navigation apps in their respective app stores.

Google Maps Navigation has many impressive features aside from being free. As snipped from the main page:

  • Search in plain English (watch video). No need to know the address. You can type a business name or even a kind of a business, just like you would on Google.
  • Search by voice (watch video). Speak your destination instead of typing (English only): “Navigate to the de Young Museum in San Francisco”.
  • Traffic view (watch video). An on-screen indicator glows green, yellow, or red based on the current traffic conditions along your route. A single touch toggles a traffic view which shows the traffic ahead of you.
  • Search along route (watch video). Search for any kind of business along your route, or turn on popular layers such as gas stations, restaurants, or parking.
  • Satellite view (watch video). View your route overlaid on 3D satellite views with Google’s high-resolution aerial imagery.
  • Street View (watch video). Visualize turns overlaid on Google’s Street View imagery. Navigation automatically switches to Street View as you approach your destination.
  • Car dock mode (watch video). For certain devices, placing your phone in a car dock activates a special mode that makes it easy to use your device at arm’s length.


The satellite view looks very sexy in this screenshot. Another advantage to this app is that Google is also making use of its business listings and (presumably) its web crawl data. In the video above MIchael is able to get directions to “the museum with the King Tut exhibit”.

200910280835The use of streetview to show what turns will look like and how to find your final destination is also a real advantage. The app will sometimes know which side of the street your destination is.

This comes shortly after Google announced that it was going to be using its own mapping data in the US. This data has been derived from its own streetview trucks, satellite imagery and, increasingly, its users. Google now owns or has created almost every layer of its geostack in the US (it uses third-party satellite imagery). It’s expected that they will roll out their own data across the globe. The question is hat will they do with this data? Will they continue to make it available only by their own services or will they actually release the data publicly for commercial and/or non-commercial use? Regardless of Google’s ultimate decision it just became a tough day for all navigation companies out there.

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