Google launches free turn-by-turn navigation in the UK

Google has launched its free Google Maps Navigation for Android handset users in the UK.

The service runs on Android 1.6 and above, and provides Street View and satellite views as well as real-time traffic data and estimated journey times, the firm said.

Speaking at the launch, Steve Lee, Google’s Group Product Manager for Mobile Maps, said that mobile map use is growing with the spread of smartphones and cheaper data contracts.

He said that 50 million people now use Google Maps on their mobile phones every day. Google’s new service, like many of the company’s products, is based in “the cloud”. No maps are installed on a user’s device; instead, the Android phone accesses Google’s vast banks of online data, enabling updates such as traffic information to be delivered in real time.

Google is evaluating other platforms for the application, and Lee said that the company is open to partnering with other smartphone manufacturers, such as Apple, to license the application.

Lee also defended the company from accusations of undermining the position of dedicated satellite navigation firms such as Garmin and TomTom, arguing that competition and innovation is good for the industry as a whole.

Google Maps Navigation was launched in the US last autumn, and Lee claimed that delays in bringing the service to the UK were down to the firm ironing out a number of “issues” to ensure that it runs as smoothly as possible.

“In the UK, for instance, there are far more roundabouts than in the US, so there were some issues with the service that we wanted to make sure wouldn’t be a problem before we launched,” he said.

The service switches automatically to Street View near the end of a journey to provide a detailed view of the destination and items such as cash machines, petrol stations and restaurants.

Users can also search for a destination using voice for a dedicated address, or a more general search that will use Google’s standard search engine to bring up a list of possible results based on the voice input.

Lee added that Google Maps Navigation has no advertising attached to it at present, but may do in the future.

This would allow a business to have its services promoted or highlighted above others’, most likely on the layers element of the application.

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Source: V3, Times Online.

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