Last Friday, Volkswagen opened up its Electronic Research Laboratory (ERL) to journalists, showing off new areas of high-tech automotive research. But one of the most interesting projects, and not too far out from production, involves making Google Street View part of the navigation system.
Here at CNET, we were most recently blown away by the navigation system in the 2012 Audi A7, which integrates Google Earth. While driving the A7, the navigation system showed satellite imagery, with the car moving through a photographic landscape. Audi incorporates a data connection through T-Mobile in the A7 to download the imagery from Google.
Google Street View would take this integration a step further, showing panoramic photos at the location of a programmed destination. By looking at the Street View images, drivers would get a better idea of what their destinations actually look like, making them easier to locate as they drive down the street.
The goal of ERL researchers is to integrate the technology in a safe and useful manner. In the prototype demonstrated to us, Street View would automatically come up when the map zoomed in past its largest zoom scale, as long as the map was in interactive mode. That mode is used for browsing destinations directly on the map. This implementation was also designed to automatically turn on Street View once the car got within a block of its destination.
Before releasing Street View in a production car, ERL will test the different usage scenarios to make sure they will not be too distracting, and actually help drivers find their destinations.
An ERL spokesperson said the Street View technology was about a year out.
Check out our tour of Volkswagen's new ERL facility.