Google Maps is one of the tent pole services from Google, it unquestionably disrupted the market, remains hugely useful and continually gets new features and updates. If Google gave every service the Maps treatment they would have the best in class product in every single category.

Overnight Google released a bunch of new features for Google Maps on mobile, and unlike most Google updates, many of these are leaving the US border and coming to Australia. We’re going to break this down into two groups, confirmed for Australia and the rest.

Coming to Australia

Weather and Air Quality Layers

Layers can be a very useful addition to maps, I know I often toggle on and off traffic, satellite view and even the COVID-19 info layer at times. In this weeks update are two new layers, Weather and Air Quality, they are both relatively simple and exactly what you’d expect, which is exactly what you would want them to be.

Australia is a launch market for ht feature, as is India and the USA, expect to see it in the coming months.

Eco-friendly driving routes

One feature that sets Maps apart is the service’s ability to create dynamic routes for your journeys. Getting a live update or being routered around expected surges in traffic is what makes me drive to the corner store with Maps navigation on, it’s almost a co-pilot for me. At the heart of your route, AI is the preferences that let you customise your navigation, to a limited degree.

The new feature will now factor in low carbon options, and either automatically route you via the low carbon route, aka lowest fuel consumption, if travel times are similar, or provide you with the choice to take a little longer but get there with less pollution. The feature is launching in the USA soon with a global expansion this year.

New Route comparison UI

While a lower emission route is nice, using more sustainable travel such as walking, biking or even public transport is even better. Currently, if you are trying to plan a trip you need to jump in and out of different tabs in the directions screen in Maps. The new update will allow you to view a single feed of all travel options giving you the ability to toggle on and off certain preferences.

The new feature will roll out in the coming month’s worldwide so you will soon be able to plan that trip to the Oprah house using the fastest, and maybe greenest route possible.

Expansion to Assistant Driving Mode
While technically not ‘new’ Google has announced that the enhanced Google Assistant Driving Mode will be rolling out further, with Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, and Spain all getting the enhanced features.

Enhanced Assistant Mode makes it easier to use voice to send and receive calls and texts, quickly review new messages across multiple
messaging apps in one place and get a read-out of texts all without leaving the navigation screen. For those with Android Auto, these updates likely won’t apply to you but for everyone else, they’ll be a welcome addition.

Other Updates

Indoor Live View

With Live View already rolled out for external navigation Google is not starting a limited rollout of indoor Live View. While it’s currently limited to several malls in Chicago, Long Island, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, San Jose, and will be rolling out in the coming months in select airports, malls, and transit stations in Tokyo and Zurich.

Such a feature would be invaluable in navigating around foreign airports or transit centres, assuming you even know where you’re going in the first place. IT will be interesting to see if features like this ever make their way to Australia.

Low Emission Zones alerts

Across the globe, mand jurisdictions have implemented Low Emission Zones. These zones restrict the kind of vehicles that are allowed to use the roads in an attempt to keep the worst polluting vehicles out of those areas. While this feels about as useful as putting lipstick on a pig, it’s a start of a cultural change we guess.

Google Maps can now let you know if you are driving through a Low Emission Zone and either get out or switch to an approved form of transport for the last part of your journey. the feature will launch this June in Germany, the Netherlands, France, Spain, and the UK.

Pickup and Delivery integration

In our intra-COVID-19 world, we are living in it has become critical to know which businesses can support pickup and delivery. Google is enhancing the display of this information in Google Maps now letting you review the pickup and delivery options for businesses in a single UI.

In what feels like a truly revolutionary update GOogle has partnered with US supermarket chain Fred Meyer on a native integration for kerb site grocery pickup into Google Maps. Once you order your groceries (assumably from a linked account) the pickup will be sent to Google Maps where you will be a reminder to leave for your pickup window, Google Maps will let the supermarket know your ETA, as well as update the mon any changes, and pop up the check-in UI when you arrive.

This is what technology should feel like, and we hope this trial works and can be expanded. With companies like Woolworths already supporting ordering via Assistant and offering a wide kerbside pickup option across Australia we’d love to see this kind of integration here.

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Indoor Live View, this would be so useful. What places in Tokyo will be getting this capability?
It’s surprising that there STILL isn’t a full global rollout for Dark Mode for Google Maps.
With the weather layer for Google Maps, where will Google be sourcing its Australian data from?