Google Earth for Cars

Google announced during the CES Keynote last night that they have begun working with at least one car manufacturer (Volkswagen) to explore putting Google Earth/Local as an embedded application for car navigation. has written some interesting thoughts about this announcement saying Google has all the makings of a good car navigation system now, except you would need $26,000 in equipment to store the entire Google Database in a car, since broadband connections to cars are not available yet. He was just speculating on what it would take to put the whole thing in the car of course.
Actually, you wouldn’t need the entire database since cars rarely travel the entire surface of the Earth. In fact, existing car navigation systems usually get by with just a couple dozen Megabytes for maps and points of interest (POI – things like restaurants, addresses, hotels, etc.). You would need more space to store satellite/aerial photography though. I suspect a 200Gbyte hard drive could store all the data needed for Google Earth for an area covering several states in the US.
The other thing to consider is that with a WIFI connection in the car, the car could do literal “war driving” and pick up data as it moves from location to location from the Google database. A better solution would be legitimate WIFI connections placed in locations entering and leaving cities or states. Rest area WIFI maybe?
By the way, there are people already using Google Earth in cars today. You can read about people hooking up their GPSes to Google Earth if you go to the Dynamic Data Layers forum at the GEC and search for “+GPS +Navigation”. And, someday a streamlined Google Earth for embedded car systems may be quite practical.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. The post wasn’t meant to be a “here is how you can put Google Earth into your car for $26,000” set of instructions. Around where I am cellphone coverage doesn’t exist in most places let along wifi so storing data locally would still be necessary for many people. ūüôĀ
    Certainly GPS manufacturers can store an entire continent worth of navigational data on an SD card, which is why I suggested a stripped down version of Google Earth could be a good solution.
    A stripped down version of Google Earth in either their own hardware, tablet, laptop, pda, etc is plausible, and it could be very interesting…
    Tim –

  2. Rest area Wi-Fi indeed. 2006 should be the time that GE’rs and open source and community advocates come out of the closet. Most US states and a number of cites and towns are immersed in a 1980-ish nonsensical venture called 511. Aside from being a cash cow to the phone companies who are still waiting for the internet to die, 511 is nothing but an antiquated voice interface to yesterday’s text-based data.
    Most states could provide WiFi at rest stops and other key locations for a fraction of what they are wasting on the ‘dead before arrival’ 511 debacle. (not to mention if it’s astate like Colorado with a total of 6 rest areas in the entire state… maybe we should be advocating for reat areas rather than Wi-Fi rest ares).
    And for the $26,000 per car believers out there, learn how Google Earth works. You can download data for your local area over a slow dial up and you can’t drive fast enough to out run Google. You only need the detail data for a very small radius surrounding you vehicle, even less if you are one of the majority of drivers who is interested in driving on roads.
    Best regards

  3. Google Earth and VW

    Deep in the coverage of CES last week is a tidbit about Google working with VW on a navigation system built on Google Earth. From Electronic Business:
    [Larry Page began] his presentation showing a powerful Google Earth satellite application that could

  4. Google Earth als Navigationssystem

    Google Earth im Armaturenbrett? Das k√∂nnte bald kommen: Auf der Consumer Electronics Show hat Google best√§tigt, dass mindestens mit einem Autohersteller an Einsatzm√∂glichkeiten f√ľr Google Earth und Local im Auto gearbeitet wird. Auf der Messe gab …

  5. Dave, As I mentioned in my comment above I wasn’t suggesting people go spend $26,000 in hardware to do this. I do understand how GE works and have used it in the manner similar to what you are describing. GPS for vehicle navigation is just one of the small ways I use my GPS. I also use it for flying, geocaching, hiking, etc. So while I do tend to only drive my car on roads, my GPS needs and GE desires don’t only exist on the road.

  6. I like to give you the link to my experiments with gps, flash and GE (and a lot more..)
    the link to kmz is:
    greetings, henk

  7. Same here. Free Google Earth navigator solution available at allows GPSR data to be sent to Google Earth while traveling. Hope VW doesnt do anything crazy, like offer me a job.

  8. Google Earth for Cars – i think its necessary element in car!
    Its very good option for driver!
    Google Earth will interface with the existing navigation service, adding high-resolution satellite images of cities to current traffic information downloaded via the car’s wireless internet connection. As you may recall, Volkswagen also recently showed off its own Google Earth-enhanced navigation service, although it looks like Honda may actually beat them to the market. No word if/when it’ll make it to North America market though.

  9. This is a great idea, where can I sign up?
    I use google earth, on a regular basis and would love to hook it up to my car.

  10. hello..
    this is an interesting issue. i’m a researcher one of the varsities in malaysia doing research on concern of vehicle navigation and security system with the approach of embedded system design. hence, i would like to have more information on embedding the google earth with ather hardwares. thanx.

  11. excellent idea? i would be interested in this device

  12. What a great idea. I think most transport companies will be interested.

  13. Great stuff, I use my iphone with Google maps so much on the road, when I’ve pulled over that is. To have it integrated into the actual car navigation system is great.

  14. I have been usine google earth for the last 4 weeks and i think it is great easy and simple.

  15. Google earth is really good and i think this will be a very good thing for everyone.

  16. Goggle maps and google earth are both great tools! I am looking forward to all the future possibilities with the “mobile internet” …

  17. This is a great idea, to be able to search for a business while in the car without needing an address.

  18. This is a good idea Google Earth should be part of every sat nav.

  19. This is a good idea Google Earth should be part of every sat nav.

  20. I can see the advantage of being able to track my drivers progress, or even allowing customers to see how long their wait will be. Less junk calls about late drivers that way!

  21. I think transport companies would be interested in something like this, definitely something to look in to.

  22. I came across this post today and i find this post really interesting too.


PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.