Understanding Ather's Navigation System (Google Maps API) and Advanced Navigation Feature Request

Note: This is going to be a technical post. I’ll try my best to explain what I want to say simply with some analogies so that everyone can understand.

As most of you already know, Currently, the 450x Dashboard uses Google Maps API.

For those who don’t know what an API is, in layman terms, you can say it’s a service which does whatever you say it to do.

Suppose you’re hungry and want food. You have two options

  1. Cook whatever you want to eat

  2. Order whatever you want to eat (if it’s available)

Now apply similar analogy for options Ather had for their Navigation System.

The first point doesn’t make sense for them because Ather doesn’t have any data to build its own navigation tech. (No raw items in the kitchen so can’t cook)

Using API is similar to the second point. Ather wants navigation data (Food) so it orders it using Google Maps API (Restaurant)

Unlike the Google Maps Application which we use in our phones, the API is not free.

Why it’s paid? (No one will cook food and give it for free, right?)

So, Ather Pays some amount to Google for each API request sent to their servers so they want us to pay for the connect plans. Makes sense, right?.

If you’re with me till here and you’re reading and understanding everything you might have noticed I mentioned (If it’s available) in the second option.

Yes, Google Maps API doesn’t provide every data which you see in their app. (It’s up to the restaurant to choose which food items they’ll deliver at home and which they’ll offer only when you Dine in!)

That’s why you see a limited amount of navigation features on your Ather Dashboard instead of all the features which you use on the Google Maps App on your Phone.

But here, I see an opportunity of an “Advanced Navigation Mode” in which Ather can make use of the Android Dashboard and use Google Maps App instead of API.

In addition to the current model, what I can think of is an advanced mode button on the current navigation dashboard which passes the start and stop destination latitude and longitude to the Google Maps App which is technically known as Intent in Android.

Have you ever noticed how your cab driver can open your drop location which you entered on your phone in the Cab’s App using Google Maps?

Basically what happens is whatever drop location you enter, latitude and longitude are extracted from it and this data is passed as arguments to the Google Maps and it renders the destination for him.

I’m asking for a similar kind of implementation on Ather’s Dashboard.

This kind of implementation will not only be an easy addition but it will also prove easy in maintaining and won’t cost anything(except Data charges).

It can add some features like

  1. Real-Time Traffic Updates

  2. Offline Maps Downloading

  3. Voice Navigation (Would prove helpful when paired with Smart Helmets)

  4. And much more…

Now the most obvious question will be

Can Ather 450x’s Hardware (Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 Chipset) running Android 8.1 can handle Google Maps?

I’ll say, Yes, it can handle it.

Don’t think that Snapdragon 212 is underpowered. It is capable of running a low-end Android Mobile!.

In fact, it has powered Nokia 2 in past which was running Android 7.0!

These points are from my aspect about the hardware they pack and the software they’re using. To all the geeks here of forums, If you feel I’m wrong somewhere, feel free to correct me and drop your views :upside_down_face:

Also, if you feel any hurdle is there which I missed then please mention that too :sweat_smile:

Very well explained. But can’t like it. Maybe exhausted the number of likes :sweat_smile:

We both will be more happy if we find this on our dashboard than our liked post section :stuck_out_tongue:

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True that! As such I’m getting delivery in Q1FY2021, so OTA should fix maps and everything by then.

You can vote and quote in some other relevant thread and like! :wink:

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This is an interesting suggestion… But I think Ather will have to go into unchartered waters here to get this done. Other automobile companies simply just pick Android Auto and gmaps comes bundled - a package for commercial use (no traffic data still I think) . Here, Ather has to figure out how a consumer version of gmaps can be allowed on a vehicle. The licensing discussions would be complicated I think. Am given to understand that under current licensing conditions you can’t pick and choose Google services. they either come as the whole suite including Google play, gmail etc or you get none of them. This is for mobile/tablet use of course. For a smart scooter, which is neither Android Auto territory nor falls under smartphones/tablets category - Google will have to make some sort of exception here to make this work which could mean setting an important precedent.

I think the limitations you see today have more to do with how Google does business rather than what Ather has in their control. Maybe in due time Google would come up with a solution for this - expand Android Auto to scooters or something. But am not sure this will be solved that easily today.

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The whole point is not using Google maps business. Rather, using the normal Google maps in Android somehow to run this for at least 450X which has Android. There definitely are a few things to figure out though.

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I used to sell Google Maps APIs. There are 3 options. Custom Maps with APIs (paid), android auto, and casting your phone. All three have legal, cost and functional implications. What Ather was doing in 2019 was a simple navigation, haven’t seen the latest yet. I think an asset tracking license could help them as that plan doesn’t limit the APIs called but that’s available for a very high number of assets which Ather might not have today. As a result they must be on pay as you go model and would use each API call judiciously which might be leading to some limitations.

Happy to get on a call with the team if anything is needed. https://www.linkedin.com/in/muditgandhi

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But does asset tracking support navigation and real-time traffic? Or are they just location pings? The main addition we are discussing being real-time traffic, tracking a shared (device) location on the map, etc. Any API level that supports this?

Yes agreed. And am also saying Google’s current business model may not allow Ather to just pick gmaps mobile because of how Ather plans to deploy it on a vehicle for reasons quoted.

Asset tracking is just a different way of pricing the APIs, it gives all the same APIs.

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Thanks for starting this discussion @cyberboysumanjay, this is very well put in terms of how we build our maps. Since there is interest in how the maps on the dashboard are built and why we chose to do it a certain way, let me add a few points here.

First, some background about the dashboard itself:

We need our dashboard to integrate well with our vehicle, the UI provide to a complete riding experience, while meeting legal and regulatory requirements a two-wheeler is required to meet. For example, we cannot show full screen Google Maps - we need to overlay our speeds, range, tell-tales etc., on top of it. Lot of these apps come with additional restrictions when used for commercial applications like ours.

For this reason, we use a customised dashboard with AOSP as operating system, rather than an off-the-shelf Android tablet.

The other option is to go for “Android Automotive”… but currently, they are very much focused on cars, and we again end up facing issues as we are one of the first scooters with an Android-based touch-screen dashboard.

Having AOSP gives us freedom to do interesting things, but this also means that a lot of features which are available by default in your “certified” Android devices, are not available for us. This means we don’t have Play Store, Play Services, etc., due to which we cannot run a host of applications, including Google Maps.

So, we build our own maps application using the Google Maps API. However, the APIs don’t provide all the features the Google Maps app has. As you put it, they want you to “dine-in”.

These include offline maps, real-time traffic and “bike” navigation mode.

So, unfortunately, as much as we would like to, we are unable to currently provide these features. We are in constant talks with Google Maps to add newer features, so when any of these are available, we’ll pass it on as an OTA. Additionally, there will be non-API restricted/dependent features related to maps we will work on and make the experience better in the future.

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Thanks for the explanation. Two suggestions I would like in the current maps ui is

  1. Better visibility in dark mode. Dark Grey roads and dark blue route indication on a dark map does not help.

  2. Intelligent routing based on traffic condition. I believe maps API provides traffic data…

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Thank you for the info. I was thinking Ather is using the google maps app, and I didn’t know they’re using the API.

Even after the update 10.0.3, still the dashboard freezes when using navigation !

I wonder even the lower end mobiles handle google maps without any problem, why Ather’s system doesn’t!!!

Ather has to answer this !

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Loved the detailed yet simple explanation… Would love to see this implemented by ather

1 Like