Android Auto App Gets Satellite View: Google Maps Finally Looks Realistic While In True In-Car Navigation Mode

Google Maps for Android Auto finally has a rather realistic looking Satellite View. Though it will eat up a lot of data, the maps may feel more navigable


The “Satellite View” in Google Maps, finally landed on the Android Auto app late last week. The rather common feature had eluded the Android Auto-equipped head units in cars for quite some. Fortunately, the inclusion of the Satellite View does offer a significant boost to realistic navigation in vehicles.

Google has added the option for users to get directions using the Satellite map view. Incidentally, the bird’s eye view has been a standard part of Google Maps for years. But in-car navigation units powered by Android Auto never could summon up the same. The Satellite View isn’t hyper-realistic yet, but the mere inclusion opens up a whole new dimension for navigation using familiar cues.

Satellite View For Android Auto: Specifications

The Android Auto always had a rather straightforward approach to navigation. Whenever summoned, the Google Maps would always appear in the basic “Map” view. In other words, the Google Map offered navigational features like solid background with just roads, building outlines, and some simple landscape features. The map version has always been navigable. However, it was stark and devoid of natural features that the human eye is accustomed to seek out and become familiar with. Nonetheless, Android Auto users seldom complained about the clean look that made the map very easy to read, and was rather frugal with mobile data.

However, the inclusion of Satellite View changes the entire perception. As the name implies, the view uses images from satellite. Essentially Google stitches up snapshots from satellites and present a seamless view from the sky. This gives the users a bird’s eye view. Although humans never truly view the world from above, the realistic views of buildings and important landmarks offer an instant sense of familiarity. Also, navigation with such visual clues is far simpler than reading names of buildings and following virtual arrows.

Satellite View For Android Auto: How To Activate?

Strangely, Android Auto users have had the ability to do this for a while through the phone version of the app. Google has merely added the feature to the in-car-display mode as well. Hence users interested in navigating using the Satellite View, have to enable the same in the settings. Users can enable the setting by opening Maps while in Android Auto’s in-car mode. Thereafter users simply need to head over to the Menu and tap on the option called ‘Satellite’.

Needless to mention, given the large amount of detail, the Satellite View will eat up a lot of data in comparison to the traditional Maps. Still, Google appears to have built in a few restrictions. The view doesn’t appear to be three dimensional. It seems 3D buildings are not enabled yet. It is quite likely that Google could be optimizing the process because Google Maps has to download the high-resolution images in a rather fast moving vehicle. Several users have complained that the navigational maps in Satellite Views appear highly pixelated.

Google Maps Satellite View Android Auto
[Image Credit: Roberto Mezquia Jr via Android Poilice]

Android Auto: Features and Competition

Google Maps has competition from Navi Maps in India. Other equally capable contenders in the in-vehicle navigation space include MapMyIndia. All of these companies are continually improving their platforms to add intuitive and human-friendly navigation. Also, the companies are trying to embed several information and infotainment features. But Google has powerful AI capabilities. The search giant recently added six Indian languages to its already growing list. Moreover, the soon to be launched Android P is expected to include intuitive gestures to control the navigation. These navigation gestures are expected to revolutionize the way drivers are able to find their way.

There are several Indian vehicles that include Android Auto as well as Apple CarPlay support. Both the versions extensively depend on the tethered smartphones. The in-car infotainment panel essentially acts as a large-screen display that beams an optimized version of the navigation platform.