+ Sunday February 24th, 2019

Google Maps

We all know that driving whilst distracted is dangerous, and with our cars filled with an array of distractions, our phones can at times be the worst of them. Google knows this, and in their Android Auto implementation has tried to ensure that you don’t get distracted. To help address this for drivers whilst using Google maps for Android, the popular navigation app has today received a significant boost in voice interaction.

As of today, “OK Google” has received some very specific maps commands. Whilst in active navigation or in driving mode you can now say OK Google to open the voice channel and give a command. What’s new about that you ask? I’ve been using OK google in Maps for ages! What’s new, we’ll show you. Here is the list of new Google Maps commands that can be used via Ok Google whilst in Maps.

 Maps voice commands

  • “Mute.” or “Mute voice guidance.”
  • “Unmute.” or “Unmute voice guidance.”
  • “Show traffic.” or “Hide traffic.”
  • “Show satellite.” or “Hide satellite.”
  • “Navigate home.” or “Navigate to Starbucks.”
  • “Show route overview.” or “Show alternate routes.”
  • “What road is this?”
  • “What’s my next turn?”
  • “What’s my ETA?”
  • “How’s traffic ahead?” or “How’s traffic to home?”
  • “Avoid tolls.” or “Enable tolls.”
  • “Avoid highways.” or “Enable highways.”
  • “Avoid ferries.” or “Enable ferries.”
  • “Exit navigation.”

In addition to this list you can also initiate regular Ok Google commands such as:

  • “Call Mum.”
  • “Find gas stations.” or “Find restaurants.”
  • “Send a text to Larry.” or “Send an SMS to Sergey, I’m feeling lucky.”
  • “What’s the weather like?” or “How’s the weather in Seattle?”
  • “Play some jazz.” or “Play happy birthday on Google Play Music.”
  • “What’s the closest hotel?”
  • “When’s my next meeting?”

As always you can initiate a Google maps navigation via Google maps with phrases such as :

  • “Navigate to [name of place].”
  • “How do I get to [name of place]?”
  • “Show me a map of [name of place].”

Voice control is fantastic when it works, but when it doesn’t it is a hot fiery mess that can actually lead to significant rage, or perhaps that’s just me. Issuing the same voice command a half dozen times is frustrating, and if there’s someone in the car, you look kind of special. Poor voice recognition can happen for many reasons, noisy environment, poor microphone (or too far away), poor data connection. Whatever the reason I have experienced more than one voice interaction induced episodes of insensible rage.

Another issue is with commands such as “find a petrol station”.

Initiating this request (above voice interaction issues aside) is fast and easy, just say “Ok Google find a petrol station”, and wamo it will immediately bring up a map of all of the petrol stations along your route. Unfortunately, the details are hard to see, is it on the Highway? Just off the highway? Would it be quicker to wait until the 3rd one?

Even if it’s clear which station to choose you still have to press the screen to select. Now we can’t have everything, and yes, this is a great improvement however we are still a little way off complete hands-free interaction.

OK, you want to try the new voice interaction but you’re not sure you’ve got OK Google setup properly, no worries, from within Google maps hit the overflow menu (the 3 dots) and tap settings, from ” there choose “Ok Google” detection. That will launch the main Ok Google settings.


From there you can get “ok Google” detection set up just as you like it. It would be good if Google offered more granular control over which Mic was being used for voice control, I have suspicions it is in fact my car kit microphone that causes my issues with voice interaction whilst driving.

Overall this is a good update that we’re glad to see, and hopefully hints at a more conversational interface to come as Google’s AI and perhaps Google Assistant become better.

Do you use voice interaction with your phone? Let us know below.

Source: Google.

Duncan Jaffrey   Associate

Duncan has been interested in technology since coding "Mary had a little Lamb" in Basic on his ZX Spectrum. A fan of all things Android, most days you'll find Duncan trawling the web for Android news or quietly editing away on Map Maker.

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