Skip to main content

Google Maps’ latest features aim to ease holiday season stress

Google is adding new pandemic-related data to Maps aimed at getting you safely through the holiday season and beyond.

First up, the Maps team is about to roll out enhancements to the app’s so-called “COVID layer” for iOS and Android. Launched in September, the feature offers lots of insightful pandemic data, such as recent case numbers for the part of the map that you have on the screen. You can enable the layer by tapping on the app’s “COVID-19” button at the top right-hand corner of your display.

Upcoming improvements to the COVID layer include the addition of all-time detected cases in an area, together with quick links to COVID 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,” Google Maps executive Dane Glasgow wrote in a post introducing the update.

To make it easier to avoid holiday crowds and ensure you can more easily stick to social distancing guidelines, Maps is also adding live crowdedness information for public transit.

“On Android and iOS globally, you’ll start seeing how crowded your bus, train, or subway line is right now based on real-time feedback from Google Maps users around the world (wherever data is available),” Glasgow said.

In addition, Maps is adding the real-time status of takeout and delivery orders in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Australia, Brazil, and India when you book or order from Google Maps on Android and iOS. The app will also tell you when to collect your food, or when you can expect the delivery person to arrive at your location. Expected wait times and delivery fees will also show on the app.

Finally, aware that many folks will be making more trips in their cars over the holiday season, Maps will soon begin rolling out an early preview of an improved version of the Google Assistant driving mode, which acts as a kind of personalized dashboard. The new Assistant interface aims to let you “get more done while keeping your focus on the road.”

To try driving mode, navigate to a destination with Google Maps and tap on the pop-up. Alternatively, head to Assistant settings on your Android phone or say “Hey Google, open Assistant settings.” Then select Getting around, choose Driving mode, and turn it on. For now, the preview will only work for Android users in the U.S., in English.

Glasgow notes that Maps has now added almost 250 new features and improvements that focus on the pandemic, including live busyness information for millions of places, and the ability to easily see critical health and safety information at a glance.

He added: “We’re continuing to invest in ways to keep information in Maps fresh, with over 50 million updates made to the map each day. Even as the holidays approach, we don’t plan on slowing down.”

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Waze vs. Google Maps: Which one is right for you?
google v waze feat image

When you need to go somewhere, you naturally seek out the best route with the lightest traffic possible and fewest obstructions. Today's mapping and navigation apps are there for you. The two most popular apps for iOS and Android -- Google Maps and Waze -- deliver on that brief, presenting up-to-the-minute information, real-time turn-by-turn directions, and much more.

Google Maps and Waze are amongst the most popular navigation apps -- even among iPhone users -- because both are easy to use and consistently deliver accurate directions. So which one of these two Google-owned apps should you choose as your day-to-day driving navigation aid? Let's figure it out by looking at the two side-by-side, so you can see why of the two apps you prefer.
What is Waze?

Read more
New Google Maps features offer a preview of doom-conscious tech
google maps fire

If this last year felt a little more apocalypse-y than others past, it’s not without good reason. And as with every industry, tech is starting to take notice. As such, many of the new Google Maps features announced this week preview a tone shift within the industry. As technology plateaus, rather than shallow convenience, the focus appears to be transitioning to quality-of-life improvements, and hopefully, sustainability.

One element of our day-to-day lives that has undergone a begrudging transformation is grocery shopping. Once a universally beloved pastime (sarcasm), picking up the necessities in-person has been made even less convenient, and in some areas entirely inadvisable. For this reason, many of us have grown accustomed to picking up online orders or scheduling them to be delivered, and Google Maps hopes to further alleviate the new challenges this presents in a couple of ways.

Read more
Apple Maps now shows you COVID-19 vaccination locations
blood biomarker pain indiana university injection

Apple has added a new feature to Apple Maps that shows where you can get a COVID-19 vaccination.

The feature is powered by data from VaccineFinder, an online service developed by Boston Children’s Hospital that offers the latest vaccine availability information at providers and pharmacies throughout the U.S.

Read more