Google Maps faces a new Russian rival on Android Auto

Earlier this spring, Google made the smart move to permit its Android Auto app-mirroring dashboard display software to become compatible with third-party apps. This was after it was fined $123 million in Italy, for its monopolistic actions in refusing to allow Italian navigation app JuicePass (which directs electric vehicle drivers to the nearest charging station) access in favor of Google’s own Maps app.

Once the gates were open, naturally, there was an influx of navigational and other car experience-enhancing apps rushing in to compete with Google’s native navigational offerings. It was finally all healthy, fair competition, and Russia has joined the fray with one particular recent candidate: Yandex.Maps.

Yandex is a Russian machine-learning navigational tech company, which seems to have created a perfect alternative to Google Maps, with its 10 years of experience in navigation and transportation services. Yandex.Maps offers it all to rival Google Maps, including voice prompts, alerts for upcoming speed limits and traffic cameras, and traffic congestion info updated in real time.

The new software even has the option to download directions into an offline mode, for when you run out of data or venture out on an off-road adventure in the bush somewhere.

However, as Engadget (who first reported on this) notes, the Yandex.Maps full navigational package has one enormous limiting factor that may hurt its ability to truly compete with Google Maps. 

Yandex.Maps is currently only available in Russia, and requires a paid “Yandex Plus” subscription if drivers want to make use of the novel dashboard-navigation experience. 

The company does offer Russians a three-month free trial to test it out before buying, though. And for all we know, the $2.30 equivalent of the 169 Russian rubles that are charged as a monthly usage fee may just be worth it if it outperforms Google Maps in precise road mapping and route calculation.

Google Maps isn’t always updated to reflect the opening up or blocking off of smaller streets, or acknowledge the existence of some legitimate off-road routes, for example, especially outside the USA—so it’s possible Yandex.Maps could be a truly worthy alternative. 

Even if it’s only a Russian breakthrough at the moment, it’s also a breakthrough in the sense that more developers are showing an interest in taking advantage of the free Android Auto app market and looking for ways to compete with Google in the car-optimized navigational software sphere.