SAN FRANCISCO – Lost drivers soon will be able to Google for help at the pump.
As part of a partnership to be announced Wednesday, the online search leader will dispense driving directions at thousands of gasoline pumps across the United States beginning early next month.
The pumps, made by Gilbarco Veeder-Root, include an Internet connection and will display Google's mapping service in color on a small screen.
Motorists will be able to scroll through several categories to find local landmarks, hotels, restaurants and hospitals selected by the gas station's owner.
After the driver selects a destination, the pump will print out directions. Eventually, Gilbarco Veeder-Root hopes to enable motorists to type in a specific address and get directions.
"We think the service will create more customer loyalty for retailers," said Gilbarco Veeder-Root spokeswoman Lucy Sackett.
Greensboro, N.C.-based Gilbarco Veeder-Root will initially offer the service in about 3,500 gas pumps and expand based on retailer demand.
Unlike most of Google's services, this one won't include ads bringing the company income. But participating retailers will be able to make extra money from other merchants that offer coupons on the service.
Making maps available at gas pumps appealed to Google because the Mountain View-based company wants to make its services available whenever and wherever people need them, said Karen Roter Davis, a principal business development manager for Google.
Also this week, Google unveiled plans for free cell phone software designed to make it easier and more enticing to reach the Internet on mobile devices.
The first so-called smart phones equipped with Google's software, called "Android," won't be available until the second half of next year.
Calling up a map at a gas pump should be particularly popular among motorists who are too stubborn or embarrassed to pull over and ask someone for help, Roter Davis said. "This will be sort of a Googley, more stealthy way of getting directions."