GM rolls out a new cloud-based mapping service for nearly 1 million vehicles


General Motors is launching a new in-car mapping service for nearly 1 million of its vehicles. The new service is called Maps Plus, and it will be powered by Mapbox, the open-source-based map provider that competes against Google and Here for enterprise deals for customized and in-app maps.

In addition to in-car navigation, Maps Plus will also integrate with other popular apps, including music streaming services like Spotify or voice assistants like Alexa, which will appear as individual widgets superimposed over the map. While plotting a destination, Maps Plus will also notify the driver of the current speed limit or if they will need to refuel along the way.

Maps Plus is designed for vehicle owners who didn’t purchase the option for in-car navigation when they bought their vehicle, said Tim Babbitt, senior manager for digital experiences at GM. While a “significant percentage” of people do opt for navigation, there are vehicle packages that generally don’t include it, he said.

GM says the service will be available to select model year 2018 and newer Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac vehicles by the end of 2021. Maps Plus will be offered as part of GM’s OnStar Connected Services subscription service, which starts at $14.99 a month.

Obviously, many car owners use popular services like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that mirror their phone’s interface on the infotainment screen in their vehicle. But Babbitt says those services don’t offer the same type of embedded experience that GM is offering with Maps Plus.

“With an embedded experience that can work with all of the signals of the vehicle, there’s integrations that are possible that we think the customer would find very helpful to have,” he said. “It’s an end-to-end integrated type of experience.”

Many automakers have made deals to integrate apps and navigation provided by major tech companies like Google. Ford recently made such a deal, along with Volvo and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, to use Google to power its software and vehicle infotainment services. GM also made a deal with Google for vehicles that are model year 2022 and on.

But Babbitt says Maps Plus is meant to “fill the gap of the customers that don’t have embedded nav today, and to make sure that everybody has the ability to have a strong embedded experience in their vehicle.”