Need to Know
- A new layer within Google Maps will now display all-time detected cases in an area, and quick links to local COVID resources.
- Google Maps will now also feature live crowdedness information for public transit.
- The new updates come ahead of the holiday season, when travel from city to city may spike.
- Other updates include the ability to see the live status of a delivery or takeout food order, and the launch of Google Assistant driving mode.
Google has launched a number of updates to Google Maps, as the approaching holiday season prompts the need for safe travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a blog post published on November 17, Dane Glasgow, VP of Product for Google Maps, detailed the updates, most of which focus on keeping Google Maps users aware of the risk of COVID-19 as they travel, whether within their hometown or out of it. An updated COVID layer in Google Maps, which will be rolled out in the coming weeks, will display all-time detected coronavirus cases in a given area, as well as information about local COVID-19 resources. In addition, a new function for those who use public transit will display live crowdedness information, so users can determine whether they feel it is safe to take a bus, train, or subway while traveling within their own home city.
For those who are ordering takeout or delivery from local restaurants during the pandemic, Google Maps is rolling out a new feature that will allow the status of food orders to be updated in real-time, and will also display how busy a restaurant is. Google will also be launching a feature that allows users to see the status of their restaurant reservations when in-person dining resumes.
Other, non-COVID-focused updates include the launch of driving mode in Google Assistant. This feature will allow users to use their voice to send and receive calls and texts and will read out text messages so users don’t need to look at their phone while driving. Driving mode will also alert users to incoming calls, which can be accepted or declined using voice prompts.
“Even in a pandemic, more than 1 billion people still turn to Google Maps to navigate their new normal—and our work is far from done,” Glasgow wrote. “We’re continually working to build new features and services to help all of us emerge from this challenging time stronger than ever. So whatever your plans are this holiday season and no matter how much they’ve changed, Google Maps can make them easier and safer for you.”
Google originally launched its COVID-19 Maps layer in September; at the time, it showed the number of current cases in a given area, as well as the weekly average of new cases per 100,000 people in the area. At the time, Google has also updated its search page with a COVID-19 information hub to include easy access to information such as how to identify symptoms and how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as data on the nearest testing facility.
In October, Google launched new developer solutions within Google Maps for ride-sharing and delivery companies, as the use of such services spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic. These solutions included Nearby Drivers, a tool with which you’re able to easily find the right driver or courier for a trip, and the integration of in-app Navigation to Google’s On-demand Rides & Deliveries solution, which helps prevent distractions caused by switching from the driver app to a navigation app.