Google Maps has had a tough time staying relevant in a Covid-19 world, when lockdowns make navigating streets ill-advised or even illegal, and when businesses open, close or change working hours faster than the big G can update. Well, it seems Maps is trying to remedy that.
In a blog posted entitled 'Google Maps updates to get you through the holidays', the team behind Google Maps details several important additions coming to the app that are rolling out 'in the coming weeks' (from November 17).
Three of the four big new features coming soon seem designed for Covid care, keeping those in lockdown sane, and those not in lockdown safe. The fourth feature, which is only rolling out in the US, is a driving-mode for Google Assistant to help you use several phone features without taking your eyes off the road.
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The first of the new features coming to Google Maps is changes to 'Covid layer', which currently tells you the increase in Covid cases on a country-by-country, or state-by-state in the US, case. Apparently, this layer will soon include 'all-time detected cases in an area', not just the current trends of a place.
In theory this layer stops you visiting areas with high infection rates, but given one 'area' in the layer is a whole country, it's not too precise.
Next is Live Takeout and Delivery Status, which will prove useful for people in lockdown who depend on delivered delicacies. This mode lets you order food from takeaways and track its status.
This feature is only coming to a few countries like the US, India, Brazil and Germany, but this mode will also let you book seats in restaurants in many more countries (if you're allowed to eat out).
Finally there's Live Transit Crowdedness, which tells you how busy a bus or train is in real time. This builds on a pre-existing Google Maps feature which predicted how busy a line would be based on its average popularity, but now the information should be live.
This will help people who want to avoid crowded carriages or buses, as they can plan around emptier options.