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Google's latest shopping tool: Auto insurance

The search giant launches a service that enables users to compare auto insurance quotes -- just like they would flights and hotels.

The tool only works in California for now, but Google plans to expand it to other states. Google

Google may be experimenting with out-there projects like driverless cars and smart contact lenses, but it hasn't forgotten about the prosaic. Case in point: the tech giant on Thursday launched a new tool that helps people compare automobile insurance quotes.

The service, called Google Compare for Auto Insurance, lets people look at quotes side by side from up to 14 different insurance providers. The tool only works in California for now, but the company said it will expand to more states, though it hasn't said when. Google has offered the tool for the past two years in the United Kingdom.

The move illustrates Google's desire to turn its search engine into more than just a list of links. It wants to be a hub for more nuanced answers too. Last month, Google announced it would display specific health-related information in search results.

Google's search engine also lets you compare flight and hotel booking rates. The auto insurance tool is just Google's latest addition to this group of products, which compete with other sites like Kayak and Expedia.

The auto insurance product could potentially deliver added revenue for Google. To use it, people enter their ZIP code and make and model of their car. The more Google knows about its users, the more prized its advertisements could become to marketers. To power the product, Google has partnered with a few outside companies, including CoverHound, a startup that specializes in insurance comparison.

After comparing quotes, users can talk with agents to complete their purchases. At launch, insurance partners include Metlife, Mercury and 21st Century. Google said it plans to also include ratings, reviews and information for local-agent support.