Google will not confirm or deny it, but they are secretly working on their own GPS navigation software. I predicted this back in August and many thought I was crazy, so I’m back again to stoke the rumor mill.
1. Google already collects anonymous bits of information from mobile phones
It is no secret that Google collects data from your phone. They currently use this information to crowdsource the live traffic data on Google Maps.
Google specified which devices this affects over at ReadWriteWeb:
Google Maps products that include location services will make use of this information for traffic. This includes the downloadable Google Maps for Mobile product for mobile phones as well as the Google Maps application for Android phones. One exception is the maps functionality that Google provides for the iPhone – the iPhone does not provide any location data that is used for traffic crowdsourcing at this time.
2. Google is building their own map data
Everyone tried to debunk my original prediction by pointing out Google has a multi-year deal with Tele Atlas to use their map data. According to Forbes, Google ended that licensing agreement in early October, but will continue to use Tele Atlas for international maps.
Instead, Google will use data collected from their Street View cars and crowdsource the rest from mobile phones. This is a similar approach we have seen from Waze. Google has the clear advantage of pre-installation on most Android phones.
ReadWriteWeb was able to confirm that Google collects route data:
According to Dave Barth, the product manager for Google Maps, Google will “find the start and end points of every trip and permanently delete that data so that even Google ceases to have access to it.”
If you want more proof Google is using their own map data, just visit Google Maps and look in the bottom right corner.
3. Google allows you to make map corrections
Waze issued a direct response on Google’s crowdsourcing efforts by claiming Google was only using passive sources for data collection, but things have changed. Google now allows you to make map corrections.
4. Turn-by-turn directions are available on the Verizon Motorola Droid which features Android 2.0
Verizon worked with Motorola and Google to include a navigation app with their Android phones that is powered by Google Maps.
A source with access to a Droid phone shared their experiences:
There’s an app on the Sholes called Navigation that does exactly that: GPS based turn by turn directions, using the Text to Speech library available in Android 1.6/2.0. It even does the tilted map view similar to most commercial GPS units. I think personally the neatest feature in it is that it ties into the Global Search functionality of the phone, so from the home screen, you can tap the search widget’s “speak” button, say “Directions to San Francisco” and it’ll load, calculate where you are, confirm you want “Directions from here to San Francisco”, and when you say “yes” it goes to it.
This feature was spotted on the Motorola site, before it was quickly taken down.
5. Google will enter any market where they can sell ads
If anyone can monetize GPS navigation software, it is Google. The map data they are collecting could also open up new revenue streams as they compete directly with companies like Tele Atlas and Navteq.
Google has shown a willingness to jump into any business. They are rumored to be launching a music service this week and also offer their own Android phone in retail stores. Carriers control which software runs on their phones, but if Google bypasses the carrier, they can include whatever they like on the device.
If Google is allowing Verizon to use their maps data for spoken turn-by-turn directions, it is only a matter of time before we see a similar service on other Android devices. I was hoping we would see this navigation service coincide with the release of Android 2.0, but it appears Google is still hard at work on it. Look to 2010 for this service to begin appearing on mobile phones.
What features would you like to see included with Google’s GPS navigation software?