Google today announced updates to Google Maps aimed at informing users about risks related to the pandemic. Maps will soon show all-time detected COVID-19 cases in an area, along with quick links to resources from local authorities. Google will also begin to show how crowded bus, train, and subway lines are in more places around the world. In supported countries, Maps also now displays the live status of takeout and delivery orders, as well as reservations. And in the U.S., Maps features a new driving mode that puts Google Assistant front and center.
Google says it has added nearly 250 features and improvements to Maps since the start of the pandemic, including live busyness information for millions of places. Over 50 million updates are made to the map each day, drawing on data from more than 10,000 local governments, transit agencies, and organizations, according to the company. These include “popular times” information for over 20 million places worldwide.
Beyond the enhanced COVID-19 map layer on Android and iOS and the public transit crowdedness data, Maps users in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Australia, Brazil, and India will soon see food order information, including when to pick up orders, when to expect deliveries to arrive, anticipated wait times and delivery fees, and reorder shortcuts. Maps will also show reservation status in 70 countries around the world.
In addition, Maps is gaining an interface specifically optimized for hands-free driving. After previewing this new Google Assistant driving mode in Maps in early 2020, Google is today offering an early preview of the experience on Android in English in the U.S. With Google Assistant driving mode in Maps, users can leverage voice to send and receive calls and texts, review new messages across apps, and get a read-out of texts. Assistant will alert them to incoming calls so they can answer or decline with their voice. It will also respond to media playback commands for “hundreds” of providers, including YouTube Music, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and more.
To get started with Google Assistant driving mode, begin navigating to a destination with Maps and tap on the popup. Alternatively, head to Assistant settings on an Android phone or say “Hey Google, open Assistant settings,” then select “Getting around,” choose “Driving mode,” and switch it on.
“Driving mode makes all of this possible without ever leaving the navigation screen, so you can minimize distractions on the road,” Maps VP Dane Glasgow wrote in a blog post. “To make sure that information is as accurate and up-to-date as possible, we rely on 170 billion high-definition Street View images from 87 countries, contributions from hundreds of millions of businesses and people using Google Maps … We also invest in technical approaches that power some of our most beloved and essential features — from the 20 million places globally that now show popular times data to AR-powered Live View.”
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