Android Auto app gets satellite view: Google Maps finally looks realistic in true in-car navigation mode


Google Maps’ “Satellite View” finally landed on the Android Auto app late last week. The rather common feature had escaped Android Auto-equipped main units in cars for a number. Fortunately, the inclusion of satellite view provides a significant boost to realistic navigation in vehicles.

Google added the ability for users to get directions using the Satellite Map view. Incidentally, the bird’s-eye view has been an integral part of Google Maps for years. But Android Auto-powered in-car navigation units have never been able to do the same. Satellite view isn’t hyperrealistic yet, but the simple inclusion opens up a whole new dimension for navigation using familiar clues.

Satellite View for Android Auto: Specifications

Android Auto has always had a fairly straightforward approach to navigation. Whenever they are invoked, Google Maps always appears in the basic “Map” view. In other words, Google Map offered navigation features like a plain background with only roads, outlines of buildings, and a few simple landscape elements. The cartographic version has always been navigable. However, it was austere and devoid of the natural characteristics that the human eye is accustomed to seeking and knowing. Still, Android Auto users rarely complained about the clean look which made the map very easy to read and was rather thrifty on mobile data.

However, the inclusion of Satellite View changes the whole perception. As the name suggests, the view uses satellite images. Essentially, Google assembles snapshots of satellites and presents a transparent view of the sky. This gives users a bird’s eye view. Although humans never really see the world from above, the realistic views of buildings and important landmarks provide an instant sense of familiarity. Additionally, navigating with such visual clues is much easier than reading building names and following virtual arrows.

Satellite view for Android Auto: how to activate it?

Strangely, Android Auto users have had the option of doing this for a while through the phone version of the app. Google simply added the feature to the in-car display mode. Therefore, users who are interested in navigating using satellite view should enable it in the settings. Users can activate the setting by opening Plans in car mode of Android Auto. Subsequently, users just have to go to the Menu and press the option called ‘Satellite‘.

Needless to say, given the large amount of detail, satellite view will consume a lot of data compared to traditional maps. However, Google seems to have incorporated some restrictions. The view does not appear to be three dimensional. It looks like 3D buildings are not yet activated. It is highly likely that Google is optimizing the process because Google Maps has to download the high resolution images in a fairly fast moving vehicle. Several users have complained that the navigation maps in satellite views appear very pixelated.

Google Maps Satellite View Android Auto
[Image Credit: Roberto Mezquia Jr via Android Poilice]

Android Auto: features and competition

Google Maps competes with Navi Maps in India. Other equally proficient competitors in the in-car navigation space include MapMyIndia. All of these companies are continually improving their platforms to add intuitive and user-friendly navigation. In addition, companies are trying to integrate several information and infotainment features. But Google has powerful AI capabilities. The search giant recently added six Indian languages ​​to its already growing list. Additionally, soon to be launched Android P is expected to include intuitive gestures to control navigation. These navigation gestures are expected to revolutionize the way drivers can find their way.

There are several Indian vehicles that include Android Auto as well as Apple CarPlay support. Both versions largely depend on connected smartphones. The in-car infotainment panel essentially acts as a large screen that broadcasts an optimized version of the navigation platform.

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Deana N. Guinn

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