Google’s artificial intelligence efforts are not limited to adding creepy movements to photos or hologram-like video messages. The software giant is also taking its software know-how and applying it to Google Maps, introducing new capabilities to the popular directions app.
Google detailed these Maps enhancements during its Google I / O keynote. The changes will roll out to the Android and iOS versions of the mapping software in the coming months and will introduce some new features while improving some of the capabilities of Maps that you may already be using.
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For example, last August, Google released detailed street maps, which showed the exact location of sidewalks, crosswalks, and other information you might need to safely get from point A to point B. Detailed street maps are available. They will roll out to 50 more cities before the year is over, Google says, with places like Berlin, Seattle and Singapore set to add support.
However, other changes to Google Maps are much more substantial, including new routing options, as well as improvements to the AR overlays available in Maps. Here’s a look at five of the most exciting Google Maps changes coming to your phone.
Ecological routes of Google Maps
Ask Google Maps for directions to a place and you will probably get several different routes – the fastest route, plus some alternatives. Going forward, Google says Maps will also include the most fuel efficient route.
Presumably, Google’s artificial intelligence will take into account traffic information, optimal driving speeds, and traffic lights to calculate which route takes you to your destination in the most fuel-efficient way. It’s the kind of feature that Google Maps could improve on Apple Maps, where the green nod is to include electric vehicle charging stations along the route for users with electric vehicles.
Safer routes from Google Maps
Google also plans to use its machine learning skills to calculate safer routes, based on helping you avoid situations where you might have to suddenly interrupt. Specifically, Google Maps will take into account how many lanes there are on the roads you can drive on and how direct the route is, using that data to identify the route where you are least likely to have to hit the brakes. That, in turn, should reduce the likelihood of accidents on the road.
If the estimated time of arrival for the safest route is the same or not so different from other routes, Maps will automatically recommend that course.
Google Maps Live View Enhancements
Live View mode in Google Maps takes advantage of augmented reality to give you real-time directions. Subsequent updates have also added support for indoor addresses. The latest updates will make it easier to access Live View directly from a map, while adding other relevant information.
Specifically, AR overlays will show what shops and restaurants are around you. You can tap to see how busy they are, read recent reviews, and get other information.
Just as helpful will be the new virtual street signs to help you navigate particularly tricky intersections, something you’ll really appreciate if you ever come across a roundabout where several different streets turn in all sorts of directions. Travelers will also be able to see where they are in relation to their hotel with the help of Live View.
Google Maps activity data
One of the great things about Google Maps is that it can tell you when specific businesses and POIs are likely to experience heavy foot traffic, so you can plan your visit accordingly. (The feature is so useful, in fact, that Apple is rumored to be working on its own version for a future Apple Maps update.)
Google plans to expand its tools for measuring how crowded places are, with Maps soon to be able to tell you about foot traffic in specific neighborhoods and sections of cities. The idea is that you can avoid places that are too crowded, or go directly to them, if you are the type of person who enjoys a scene of events.
Improvements in Google Maps recommendations
You can activate Google Maps for more than just directions, as the mapping software can also tell you about nearby businesses, restaurants, and other points of interest. Those suggestions will be much more focused in the future, according to Google.
Specifically, if you launch Google Maps in the morning, you will likely see recommendations for where to have coffee or breakfast, as opposed to options for dinner. On weekend road trips, POIs are more likely to appear on Google Maps.