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BMW Dashboards Get More Google-y with Search Suggestions & Images


The automotive industry has always been at the forefront of technology, especially at the luxury level. With navigation systems, infrared cameras and other in-car sensors, our cars are becoming more like high-tech computers on wheels. Googlepartnered with BMW in 2007 to offer in-car local search and “send to car” functionality for users of the automaker’s ConnectedDrive service. Today, Google has announced some new features that will improve how it’s search engine is used on the road.

Search On the Go

If you use Google on your desktop or mobile phone, you know how valuable search suggestions can be to finding what it is you are looking for. Driving and searching without a keyboard is challenging as it is, and now search suggestions from the dashboard will make 4-wheeled searches easier to complete. Drivers need only enter in a few letters and results based on their current location will populate automatically.

One of the tricks with navigating to an unfamiliar location is knowing the lay of the land before you arrive. Perhaps a business is tucked away in some strip-mall or parking is in an awkward location. With “pictures at your destination,” Google is hoping to make this process easier. The service aggregates visual data, including satellite photos, Street View imagery and creative commons images of specific locations to make them easier to find.

Unfortunately for U.S. drivers, these services have yet to make it state-side, but there are other options available. Ford is doing a pretty good job of integrating various navigation and entertainment systems into its cars with Microsoft’s Sync technology, which includes streaming Bluetooth audio and mobile app voice control.

In-Car Safety Concerns?

Google makes a point to note that its improved search suggestions are not just expanding the functionality of ConnectedDrive, but are also making it safer to use the technology while driving. But how much is too much? In an age where TVs, games, and other distractions are flooding our vehicles’ dashboards, at what point will government transportation agencies be forced to limit our in-car technology?

Oh no, officer, I wasn’t texting while driving! I was performing a Google search and viewing satellite imagery of my destination!

If some states are concerned that fuzzy dice might impair your vision, then they will certainly become increasingly wary of distracting dashboard technology. A promotional video for ConnectedDrive actually says, “On the way home from work I can read the news displayed on the screen, or the stock market quotes. In other words, BMW ConnectedDrive makes driving more comfortable and safer.”

Comfortable? Maybe. But safer? Only in the fact that if you find yourself stranded or in an accident, you can use the GPS or emergency call buttons for help. As more tech enters our dashboards, the likelihood of distracted driving increases. Perhaps it’s better to focus on making those cars that drive themselves so we can enjoy all that our cars will have to offer us in the future.

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