Google Maps has just gotten a whole lot more useful, thanks to a string of newly announced features for this most unique of holiday seasons. With Diwali barely over and Thanksgiving just over a week away, it’s easy to forget that the holiday season isn’t just round the corner, for many of us, it’s already here. But it won’t be business as usual and Google is here to help.
First of the features announced today on the Google Keyword blog, the COVID-19 layer of the map has been updated. It now, not only shows the current infection rate per thousand in a given location but also has direct links to local federal and medical services for that area. This is going to be great for anyone lucky enough to be travelling over the holidays, as you’ll be able to check local restrictions and rules before you leave the house.
On top of that, the public transport data has been upgraded globally to show how busy your route is likely to be, very important if you’re likely to be travelling on a route where social distancing is tricky. The data is crowdsourced from users, so don’t forget to report in if you find yourself strap-hanging with your face in someone’s armpit. That’s so not 2020. Selected countries (USA, Canada, Germany, Australia, Brazil & India at launch) will also be able to see where their takeout order is en route, its arrival time, and once the world returns to normal, you’ll also be able to make and check reservations for eat-in. This initial rollout will be extended to 70 countries “soon”.
For drivers in the US, there’s more good news, as the previously announced Google Assistant integration with Driving Mode is now available in preview. It allows you to control most functions with your voice, and that means more time with eyes on the road. At present the service is limited to US customers, using US English.
As we move towards Christmas, Google has come up with a raft of tips on how to use Google Maps to aid holiday cheer, along with a list of stats and facts about how our lives have changed during the pandemic. You can read all about them here. Additionally, Google has some great suggestions for managing the Corona Minefield when you’re meeting up with people (if you can). Topics include how to share your ETA with someone, how to check what COVID restrictions businesses are taking, and how to check if somewhere is too busy for comfort right now. Those suggestions can be found here.
As we continue to navigate through these strangest of times, it would be easy to get overwhelmed, and technology is once again going to be our saviour. So stay safe, but whatever you do, have fun.