Google is creating a brand-new, high-definition version of Google Maps for cars that use the tech giant's Android Automotive operating system. The HD maps will show details like lane markings, road signs, and traffic barriers that were not available before.
The Volvo EX90, the Swedish automaker's new flagship electric vehicle coming out later this year, and the Polestar 3, the first SUV from the performance brand owned by Volvo, will be the first cars to get the new HD maps. The Volvo EX90 and the Polestar 3 will be built on Volvo's Scalable Product Architecture (SPA2), and they will both use Android Automotive, which is Google's operating system for cars.
Volvo and Polestar say that adding Google's HD maps is a step toward making advanced driver-assistance functionalities more accurate and safer. This includes so-called "unsupervised" driving features like Volvo's Pilot Assist, which the company says will let drivers take their hands off the steering wheel and take their eyes off the road for certain stretches of highway driving.
Google's HD maps and vehicle sensors like cameras, radar, and lidar send information about the roads, which is then processed by each vehicle's Nvidia computing system. HD maps provide comprehensive lane-level and localization data essential for the next generation of assisted and autonomous driving systems. "We're excited to keep working with top automakers like Volvo to make driving safer and more comfortable for everyone."
Through Google smart home devices, Volvo and Polestar are also adding the ability to check in remotely. For example, owners can ask Google Assistant to check their car's battery level or warm up the car from the comfort of their homes. At first, the feature was only available in the US. Later in the year, it will become available in other markets.
Google didn't say much about how it makes its HD maps, except that only automakers that use Google Automotive Services will be able to use them. Google says that "Google Automotive Services" means "when a car has Google apps and services like Google Assistant, Google Maps, and the Google Play Store directly integrated into the vehicle, so you don't need your phone to access them." This is not the same as Android Automotive, an operating system built into a car that runs on Android software.
Google also said that the YouTube app will be available on Google Play "soon" and that Waze will be added to more cars. Waze was recently added to a few Renault cars with the Android Automotive OS.
Some car companies, like Stellantis, ship cars with Android Automotive but don't use Google Automotive Services. Android Automotive runs the automaker's Uconnect 5 system, which debuted on the 2021 Pacifica. Stellantis, on the other hand, decided not to use Google's native apps. Instead, it used TomTom and Amazon's Alexa for its mapping and digital assistant functions.
GM has released several cars with Android Automotive and Google Automotive Services, such as the Cadillac Lyriq and the Hummer EV. In Europe, Renault is also putting out cars with similar infotainment systems, and Ford says it will do the same in 2023.