Whether you’re celebrating old traditions or creating new ones this holiday season, Google Maps’ latest updates are here to keep you safe during a global pandemic.
“This year, we’ve made it easier to find information that helps you stay safe, up-to-date, and connected,” Dane Glasgow, Google Maps VP of product, wrote in a blog announcement. The company has already introduced nearly 250 new features and improvements in the last nine months, and has no intention of slowing down.
Case in point: Google is rolling out two new improvements to its COVID-19 layer, which highlights the seven-day average of new cases per 100,000 people. Update your Android or iOS app to find more information, including all-time detected cases in an area and quick links to health resources from local authorities.
“This is especially handy if you’re heading out of town and need to get up to speed about the local guidelines, testing sites, and restrictions in another city,” Glasgow noted.
And, for those who prefer to avoid holiday hordes and stick to social distancing guidelines, Google Maps now features live transit crowdedness information. Find out how full your bus, train, or subway line is before it arrives, based on real-time feedback from global users.
The holidays are different for everyone. Some folks gather with family and friends for a big meal and a pile of gifts; others get cozy with a Netflix marathon and Chinese takeaway. As more people opt for the latter this year, Google added the option to watch live status updates for carryout and delivery.
Place an order via Google Maps to know when to pick up your food or when it’s due to arrive at your door; users can also see expected wait times and delivery fees, reorder favorite meals, and—coming soon—check on the status of restaurant reservations. The feature is currently available in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, and the US.
“Even without a global pandemic, the holidays are busy and you may need to spend more time on the road,” according to Glasgow, who teased an early preview of the improved Google Assistant driving mode experience, rolling out in English to US Android users.
A new “driving-friendly” interface makes it easy to get things done while staying focused on the road. Voice commands let you send and receive calls and texts, review messages, and get an SMS read-out; Assistant even alerts you to incoming calls so you can answer or decline without taking your hands off the wheel.
Just enter your destination into Google Maps and tap the pop-up to get started. Or visit Assistant settings on Android, select “Getting around,” and activate “Driving mode. In the mood for some entertainment? The function lets you play media from hundreds of providers, including YouTube Music, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.
“Even in a pandemic, more than one billion people still turn to Google Maps to navigate their new normal—and our work is far from done,” Glasgow wrote. “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.”