Cars get smarter as manufacturer confirms 3D GPS navigation

Audi has announced that its new A8 model will integrate data from Google Earth to deliver three-dimensional terrain maps alongside traditional satellite navigation data from mid-2010.

This is the first time that Google Earth has been integrated into a production vehicle and will allow drivers to download points of interest, satellite imagery or information articles to the A8's eight-inch LCD display from the mobile network. The user will be able to search Google Earth's database directly from the vehicle, displaying up-to-date information on a destination/landmark, displaying it in 3D or plotting a course using the onboard navigation system.

Drivers will be able to plan routes on Google Maps or the Audi web portal while at home and retrieve them in the car, eliminating the need for route calculation on-the-go. Audi also claims that the system will be able to "predictively analyze" route information, with the multimedia interface relaying navigation information to the car's other systems such as the cruise control, lights and the 8-speed gearbox to allow these systems to automatically adapt to road conditions in advance.

Customers will need to insert their SIM card into the A8's multimedia system or pair a Bluetooth-enabled handset to use the new online services alongside the existing offline GPS navigation content.

The richness of on-board data has become a key differentiator in the car market recently, with several companies working to enhance the basic maps that are traditionally preloaded in GPS-equipped vehicles. Ford and Microsoft tie-up SYNC allows consumers to access personalized traffic reports, precise turn-by-turn driving directions and up-to-date information including business listings, news, sports and weather.

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