Think about the time you waste by typing in an address in a car’s GPS navigation system. Instead of driving where you need to go, you must first wade through the different menu prompts required to enter the destination. When running late for an appointment, you might lose typing in an address you've scribbled on a piece of paper or printed out from Google Maps.
But now, General Motors’ OnStar division has joined the roster of carmakers, including BMW and Ford, that allow you to upload addresses to your car’s navigation system wirelessly from a smartphone. Once you're in the car, up to five destinations are automatically synced wirelessly and stored in the car as destination addresses, which you can activate by voice.
The new feature became available August 30 with the RemoteLink app, which OnStar subscribers can download free of charge from the Android and iPhone marketplaces. It can also be activated by downloading an update for existing RemoteLink users.
OnStar subscribers can use RemoteLink to send addresses to their cars’ navigation system from various applications from Android or iPhone devices. For example, you can copy addresses from a smartphone contact list, the Web, or an email, and then send them to your car with RemoteLink. You can also dictate destinations into your smartphone by voice commands.
According to OnStar’s statistics, mobile car navigation is useful for the vast majority of users. The firm says 95 percent of smartphone users seek local destinations using their phones and 88 percent of them act on the information they find, which includes using a car navigation system to drive to the address.
OnStar and Chevrolet announced it had developed Android apps for the Chevrolet Volt at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show. Since then, most 2011 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac models are equipped to run the Android and iPhone app with OnStar.
In addition to the new address-upload feature, the RemoteLink app also sends information to users’ smartphones about a car’s oil level, tire pressure, fuel level, and mileage. Thus far, OnStar says the app has been downloaded 450,000 times in North America.
The new RemoteLink mobile navigation feature is certainly not the car industry’s first, nor will it likely be the last, to allow users to send destinations to their cars with their smartphones. Ford’s Sync and BMW’s Connected Drive also allow users to perform the task, as well as run other mobile applications. BMW’s ConnectedDrive, for example, can sync data from a Blackberry to the dashboard console with a Bluetooth connection and the audio system reads e-mail or text messages out loud as you drive. When the car is not in motion, you can read the full texts of the emails from a Blackberry inbox on the car’s dashboard screen. Ford also plans for Sync to read e-mail and text messages outloud, and to allow drivers to dictate messages, in three to five years time.
New mobile-to-car infotainment applications from BMW, Ford, GM’s OnStar, and other carmakers should meet that demand from users who seek to port their mobile apps to the car.
Bruce covers tech trends in the United States and Europe. He can be reached through his Website at www.brucegain.com.