Google has announced plans to add more detailed street-level data to Google Maps, including accurate road sizes and shapes, as well as features that can help people traverse streets more easily on foot.

The news comes as cities around the world transform to the so-called “new normal,” where solo transport such as walking and cycling are preferred due to social distancing measures driven by the global pandemic.

While Google Maps already shows varying road widths to help users distinguish between alleyways and major thoroughfares, for example, Google will soon display roads more accurately at scale. This will also include showing exactly where sidewalks are, in addition to crosswalks and pedestrian islands, which may prove useful for those with specific accessibility requirements.

Above: How Google Maps looks now (left) and soon (right)

Elsewhere, Google is adding some additional visual enhancements to Google Maps, using what it calls a new “color-mapping algorithmic technique” to make it easier to distinguish between natural features such as beaches, deserts, and ravines.


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It’s all about showing at a glance whether a place is “lush and green,” arid, icy, or a combination thereof. This before-and-after comparison of Iceland illustrates the changes, with varying densities of “green” across the country and its largest ice cap now clearly visible.

Above: More detail and color in Google Maps (right)

To achieve this, the company said that it applied computer vision smarts to satellite imagery and identified various terrain types such as arid, forested, mountainous, and icy. Google then assigned each of these features a range of colors from the HSV color model.

This new colorful Google Maps will be rolling out to everyone globally from this week, while the more detailed street-level maps for city-dwellers will be arriving first in New York, San Francisco, and London “in the coming months.” More cities will be added to the mix in the future.

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