General Motors Launches Maps+, a New App-based Navigation System

General Motors Launches Maps+, a New App-based Navigation System

Author: Eric Walz   

On Monday, automaker General Motors announced the launch of Maps+, a new in-vehicle, app-based navigation system for select model year 2018 and newer Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles.

Maps+ is powered by technology from mapping company Mapbox. It will begin rolling out to approximately 900,000 GM vehicles on April 30, the automaker said. Maps+ offers a connected ecosystem of a voice assistant, navigation and apps into a single interface.  

Maps+ will be available on select vehicles through Connected Vehicle, Premium and App Access subscription plans that GM offers. 

GM said that Maps+ was developed to meet driver needs while keeping hardware capabilities of different vehicle models in mind. It works with GM's existing infotainment systems so drivers of compatible vehicles that previously did not have navigation built-in will be able to use it. 

Founded in 2010, GM's partner Mapbox developed a cloud-based location platform for hardware and software developers that serves as the building blocks for adding live location map data to vehicles or for mobile applications. 

The Mapbox AI-powered data pipeline processes 300+ million miles of anonymized and aggregated live road telemetry data each day, allowing Mapbox to continuously update its maps everywhere in the world. GM drivers using Maps+ will always have the most up to date maps available in their vehicles.

The technology behind Maps+ is similar to Google Maps. The Mapbox technology includes powerful routing engines, traffic-aware travel times, and turn-by-turn directions. The routing is based on real-time traffic with map data that's updated daily by Mapbox. 

Maps+ also includes embedded speed limit alerts, as well as low fuel recognition which will route drivers to a nearby gas station if the vehicle's fuel level is low. 

"We know customers want an easy and convenient in-vehicle experience that improves over time," said Santiago Chamorro, GM vice president of Global Connected Services. "We listened to customer feedback and developed a product that works seamlessly with our current infotainment systems and provides a highly personalized experience that will iterate throughout the lifetime of the vehicle."

Drivers can launch Maps+  and get directions using voice control using Amazon Alexa, which is built-in. It also offers integrated apps to listen to music or podcasts, which is similar to the Android Auto app from Google. Drivers or passengers can search for points of interest, shops, restaurants, parking and more from a single search bar.

Maps+ features a simple interface for vehicle navigation and music and podcast selection that can be personalized. Drivers can also add their favorite locations and points of interest.

GM customers are also given the choice whether or not they want to use Maps+. Drivers can still project their favorite smartphone apps for navigation or music to the infotainment screen if they prefer.

For GM, Maps+ represents its shift towards more connected vehicle services, which will provide additional revenue streams for the company in the future. Maps+ is fully supported by over-the-air software updates, a technology pioneered by Tesla in the auto industry. 

Vehicles that support OTA software updates are now being offered by other automakers, including from GM's domestic rival Ford Motor Co, which is offering over the air software updates for the electric Mach-E SUV. 

Other features of Maps+ include predictive keyboard entry for quicker searching, day and night map modes, and shortcuts for search categories, such as coffee, food, fuel or parking.

GM and Mapbox said they will develop new features and improvements for Maps+ based on feedback and metrics its receives from customers.

"Our obsession is the driver," said Peter Sirota, CEO of Mapbox. "The map is the canvas for providing the driver with a delightful, easy-to-use experience. From discovering new places to avoiding traffic on your commute to paying at the pump or the plug, Maps+ lays the foundation for an excellent navigation experience. We are excited to build upon this with GM to continue to drive adoption."

GM said that current eligible Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac owners will be notified when their vehicle is eligible for Maps+.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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