General Motors announced Friday that it is moving toward a more connected in-car experience with the upcoming integration of Google Assistant and embedded Google applications, including navigation via Google Maps.
With this announcement, GM joins automakers such as Volvo in expanding in-car connectivity. Perhaps more importantly, it signals an increased willingness to embrace in-car technology suites engineered by tech companies such as Google. Considering GM's investment in OnStar spans decades, this represents a significant shift away from in-house tech development. While OnStar's role was traditionally safety-oriented, in recent years GM has incorporated concierge and convenience features such as turn-by-turn navigation.
While GM stopped short of confirming that it will implement a fully internet-enabled smart experience complete with the sort of key phrase activation found in systems such as the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX), this expanded partnership is a significant step toward that level of integration.
"Drivers can use the Assistant to make calls or text a friend, play a favorite radio station or podcast, close the garage door (requires compatible smart home devices) or even change the temperature in the vehicle," a GM spokesperson told The Car Connection.
As for advanced, internet-enabled functions? GM would only say that more details will be shared closer to launch in select 2021 vehicles, but the announcement said explicitly that assistant features will evolve over time. To that end, users will also be able to access a limited number of car-enabled apps via the Google Play Store from within the in-car interface.
That's not to downplay the system's connectivity. The suite will include native Google Maps navigation and the ability for drivers to share their ETA, find nearby gas or EV charging stations, or check destination details (such as store or restaurant hours) without using a separate device.
Not part of the Android ecosystem? Fret not. GM confirmed to us that Apple CarPlay will remain a core part of the company's in-car experience.
"We know choice is important to customers, so we will continue to offer projection (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) capabilities in the vehicle," GM's spokesperson said.
Look for Google Assistant integration to begin rolling out in select GM products starting in model year 2021.