Google has issued a major update to its Google Maps mobile app, improving the ride-sharing experience and adding deep integration with Uber.
Google Maps has supported ride sharing options since last year, and users have been able to see travel times for Uber and Lyft alongside the previous driving, public transportation, walking, and bicycle options. But the results were presented in a basic list, as seen below. And if you selected one, you were prompted to open the Uber or Lyft app.
With this week’s update—which I’m not yet seeing on Android or iPhone, yet, for some reason—the ride-sharing interface is changing. Now, instead of the list of ride-sharing options, you’ll be presented with a split view with a map on the top and a carousel of ride service providers on the bottom.
If you’re familiar with Uber, you’ll recognize that top view, as it features moving vehicles on the map which represent the nearby options. As in the Uber app, these vehicles move around and provide real-time location information visually.
Even more interesting, Google says it is “trying out” a new integration feature with Uber, and I suppose if this takes off, this functionality will come to Lyft (and other services) in the future too. And this new feature lets you book and pay for an Uber ride directly from within the Google Maps app. You never need to use the Uber app—or install it, I assume—again.
This is interesting to me on a number of levels.
First, I use and recommend Google Maps and Uber, and it’s always nice to see the services that I use come together in ways that are truly useful.
Second, if this eliminates the need to even use the Uber app—which most people would agree is pretty terrible, despite changing fairly constantly—I’m all the more interested. (I use/recommend Uber because it is so inexpensive compared to a taxi, but the app is horrible.)
Finally, when you think about the mobile app model to date, it’s pretty much followed a simplistic path in which you use one app to do one thing. There are exceptions to this—Outlook, for example, provides access to email, contacts, calendar, tasks, and even cloud storage—but for the most part, mobile has been a “whack a mole” experience where you go in and out of apps. This kind of integration—a hallmark of Windows phones back in the day—breaks that model in ways that make sense. It makes life easier for the user because now you only need to think of one thing, one app, when you need directions or whatever location functionality. (Google Maps provides increasingly useful information about destinations too.)
In other words, this is a good thing. I hope it works out, and I’ll give this a try the next time I need a ride.