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Google launches AI voice assistant for cars in South Korea

By Lim Chang-won Posted : July 12, 2018, 15:28 Updated : July 12, 2018, 17:08

[Google Android Auto]

SEOUL -- Google finally launched the Korean version of Android Auto, an artificial intelligence (AI) voice assistant app for vehicles, in South Korea Thursday by using a local navigation system due to restriction on map data provided by the American tech giant.

Android Auto, unveiled in 2015, connects to a smartphone to mirror features such as navigation, music playing and text messaging to a car infotainment system or a built-in tablet PC. Drivers can control Android Auto's features by giving voice commands.

In Seoul on Thursday, Google said the Korean version of Android Auto will support Hyundai Motor vehicles fitted with a compatible infotainment system and some models from other makers such as Chevrolet and Ssangyong. Cars from other foreign makers such as Mercedes Benz and Audi were included in Google's list of supported vehicles.

Android Auto's original navigation service was replaced with Kakao Navi, a GPS-based app developed by Kakao Mobility, a South Korean company which provides mobile transport-related services like taxi-hailing and car park reservation.

Google cannot use its own map app due to a security law which bans unauthorized exports of map data to data centers outside South Korea. Google runs servers scattered across the world, but there's none operated by its South Korean branch.

Google has been locked in a legal battle with the Seoul government to break through what it described as discriminative restrictions on its mapping service. The draconian security law, which has been used to curb pro-North Korean activities, requires Google to have sensitive items blurred out such as military installations, nuclear power stations and the office of President Moon Jae-in.

To listen to music, Android Auto users can use apps provided by South Korean online music services. Drivers can control the AI assistant app just by talking to it or using a controller installed on the steering wheel.

More than 80 percent of smartphones in South Korea use an Android operating system. Android Auto features a function to easily connect a phone call or send and receive a text message in conjunction with an address book stored on a smartphone.

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