Google Maps is About to Get a Lot More Useful

Posted on May 18, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Cloud, Google, iOS, Mobile with 16 Comments

Google has announced several coming new updates to Google Maps that will make the service a lot more useful.

“Thanks to our deep knowledge about the world and powerful AI advancements, we’ve spent the last 16 years bringing helpful information and experiences just like these to the map,” Google’s Oren Naim announced. “Today at Google I/O, we’re announcing five new updates so you can more easily navigate, explore and get things done. “

They are:

Routing updates. Google Maps always calculates multiple route options and presents the most efficient routes to the user. With the latest update, Maps will identify which of those routes is most likely to reduce your chances of encountering a hard-braking moment, which can lead to an accident, and will automatically recommend that route if the ETA is the same or the difference is minimal.

Live View enhancements and more detailed street maps. Live View is Google Maps’ AR showcase, and it will now display details about the shops and restaurants around you, new street signs for complex intersections, if you’re traveling, it will indicate where you are in relation to places like your hotel. Additionally, the street maps feature is coming to 50 more cities by the end of 2021 and will display sidewalks, crosswalks, and pedestrian islands along with the shape and width of a road to scale. This will be particularly useful for those with a wheelchair or stroller.

Identify busy areas. Google Maps displays live busyness information to save time waiting in line and stay socially distanced during the pandemic. Now, this feature is expanding to show the relative busyness of an entire area, like whether a neighborhood or part of town is busier than usual.

Automatic customization based on time and behavior. Maps will now highlight the most relevant places based on the time of day and whether or not you’re traveling. It will feature nearby coffee shops instead of dinner spots in the morning. And if you’re away, it will highlight local landmarks and tourist attractions.

Google says that all of these features will start rolling out globally on Android and iOS in the coming months, with detailed street maps coming to 50 new cities by the end of the year.

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Comments (16)

16 responses to “Google Maps is About to Get a Lot More Useful”

  1. johnlavey

    Yeah, Google Maps. You had a Waze to go. Looks like you are catching up.

  2. evictedkoala

    How about obvious additions like police trap alerts? The only reason I stick with Waze. Gmaps was supposed to gain some functionality, but it was gimped.

  3. crunchyfrog

    And yet Google keeps forgetting the basics that would really make navigation less annoying. One example is that I have turned off all voice navigation prompts a few years ago because they JUST TALK TOO MUCH! I would love a less verbose mode that prompts ONCE. We don't need to hear four times over about the exit we're going to take.

  4. bluvg

    Scoble is saying Apple is about to revolutionize this space: their "fourth paradigm shift" (after PC, GUI, and phone). He points to the relatively unused AI portions of their custom chips, which is something I've long wondered also. Will be interesting to watch, if true.

  5. red.radar

    I feel like there is a missed opportunity. Lot of people tow trailers and drove RVs. It would be real nice if they did conservative route mapping that factored in your length and height.



  6. stephenf

    I would like it to route me around "high crime" areas. Some locations you don't want to stop at an intersection.

  7. justme

    Better routing would be helpful - I know in the US Google Maps tends to be the king of mobile mapping solutions, but I find it has a difficult time in finding routes I know work better than what it presents at times. Particularly in the last few months I have also seen it get caught in the "recalculating route" loop more often than I care for. Deleting and reinstalling and/or rebooting the phone dont seem to reliably fix the problem.


    I have no need or desire for the automatic customization, though I would like there to be a happy medium to Google's voice direction. I tend to turn it completely off because I feel like it spouts off about my next turn way too often.

  8. mmcpher

    Color me unimpressed. These "more useful" enhancements seem more like ad-centered distractions to me, though the hard-braking is interesting, though I am a little skeptical. There is also some dissonance in A/I'ing safety through avoidance of hard-braking, while at the same time encouraging speeding on the speed-trap side. I use cruise-control to keep at or under the speed limit and ignore all the speed traps. How many minutes a week am I losing?


    I will stick to Waze because the graphical display works better for my old, squinty eyes. I keep hoping that Google Maps would redo that aspect, though that might be a major overhaul so that the display would have better contrast, better contrast in its colors and larger or more easily seen directional symbols and messages.

  9. mrcashins

    Google owns Waze...Why do they invest in Waze and Google Maps? I thought they would focus on one or that Waze was for driving and Google Maps for pedestrian guidance. This update is squarely at driving; wouldn't these updates be focused for Waze?

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