Auto maker Hyundai announced at CES this week that it will support Google Glass in its Genesis automobiles. While the announcement itself won't have much short-term impact -- there are very few Glass owners, and likely even fewer who own or plan to buy a Genesis -- it does point to some interesting use cases for wearables like Glass in the car.
Hyundai is working with integrator Covisint on the car-device integration using Hyundai Blue Link technology to communicate with Google Glass via the Covisint technology layer. Hyundai launched the Blue Link service in 2012, and today, it can help find the best route to work, the cheapest gas, help monitor car performance to get the best gas mileage and even communicate with your desktop computer and mobile devices. Blue Link is similar in many ways to GM's OnStar service.
Like Blue Link, the Hyundai Google Glass app will give you access to similar functionality, along with vehicle health reports, diagnostic and maintenance alerts, temperature and HVAC controls, roadside assistance, and Blue Link call center interactions -- all from your Glass device (assuming you have one). That means you can access these functions from Glass even when you're not in the car. just as you can from a smartphone with the Android and iOS integrations from other manufacturers.
Tim Evavold, Director of Automotive Delivery at Covisint explained to me in a phone interview that the integration is meant to work outside the car because wearing Glass in the vehicle would be too dangerous.
When I suggested that the integration was a gimmick, Evavold disagreed saying it was more about providing the capability to adapt to changing technologies. "It's not so much a gimmick as wearable technologies are just starting to grow, and there's always the next thing around the corner," he explained.
Evavold says as an example, you could use Glass to find your car in a parking lot or get directions before you get into the car. In the case of getting directions, as could walk to the car you could ask for directions, then tell Glass to send the directions to the car GPS. ( "OK Glass, send directions.") The Covisint layer would communicate with Blue Link and download the directions to the car's GPS from Google Glass. This would save you the step of entering your route into the GPS once you're in the car.
I could see other use cases as well. You could start your car remotely from your hotel room, get directions on where to find gas and breakfast as you're walking to the car, then send the information to the car's GPS with the simple voice command.
Another possibility is being able to work on the car hands-free. Imagine being able to call up instructions on how to change the oil and have your hands free while you read the instructions. There could be some real utility in that.
It's worth noting that both Apple and Android are doing their own in-the-car platforms. In these cases, they are providing the link between their phones and the car's telematics systems, but the integration is similar to what Hyundai is doing with Google Glass. Another advantage of Glass, though, is you'll never have to search pockets, purses, or glove compartments for the connected device when you want to leave the car.
Hyundai has a history of using cutting-edge mobile technology. In 2010, Hyundai started a program giving away an iPad to Equus owners, which included an app with the Equus user manual. This not only gave users access to a cool device --this was only one year after the first iPad was released, after all -- but it also gave Hyundai valuable data about what items people were looking into most, which they could use to make things easier to use or figure out which parts were failing most frequently
While this gives Hyundai a slight edge in terms of using cutting edge technology, there are very few Google Glass owners, and there are probably not many of those who own or plan to buy a Hyundai Genesis. But in terms of preparation for what's coming next, Hyundai appears to be as ready as any car company, and Glass will probably be released in some commercial form later this year. The Covisint layer should also allow them the flexibility to adapt to other devices as they become available in the future.