While the automotive sector is very definitely not the main focus at Google IO, there were some announcements there that are of interest to the Connected Car sector. Here, I highlight three specific items that were discussed at the conference.
The Mercedes on display at Google IO
The first, and perhaps the most interesting, despite the fact that it has not been shouted from the rooftops, is the new Activity Detection capabilities announced in Google Play Services. This is an area in which Google are pioneering context awareness and one of the first activities that they have defined is being in a vehicle. Clearly, Google attaches significant import to being in the car and I’d guess they have a view that mobile apps should adapt themselves somewhat when the user is in the car.
The second interesting announcement for the automotive sector was that of Geofences. Geofences permits a mobile app to be notified once the device enters (or leaves) a specified range of a central point; thus they enable applications to leverage Google’s advanced supports for spatial data to easily enable users to be notified if the car is in range of a certain location. Geofencing could be used to notify the user when, for example, they are within 50km of a service station or when they are within range of interesting POIs – as this can be done with callbacks, it can be more lightweight than approaches in which many spatial queries are performed.
The final interesting point at the conference was the session on how Mercedes used the Places API to make entry of destination much easier. The classical way of entering destinations on automotive interfaces has been to use an hierarchical system in which multiple data items are entered successively, thus closing in on the destination. For example, the city is entered first, followed by the area in the city, the street and finally the street address. This is in contrast to the efficiency of Google’s map search functions in which the user can enter the first few characters of an address and they are presented with the correct location after a small number of characters are entered.
Of course, Google is also working on the self-driving car, which Larry Page mentioned in the keynote. He noted the huge amount of time that is consumed while driving and how Sergey is trying to address this with the new car; however, it will be some time before this hits the mainstream and in the interim the Connected Car will have to do with digital enhancements to a still largely manual driving experience.