Covid-19 has made venturing out of the home a nightmare for many. Right from wearing masks to keeping our distance from other people at all times, it has become a challenging scenario to follow all guidelines. With the Unlock 1.0, these challenges will only get worse considering that more people will be getting out of their house to get to work and for other chores. Google Maps has introduced some interesting new Covid-19 related features on Android and iOS that could very well be our answer to travel during times of coronavirus.
The company’s official blog stated, “In our latest release of Google Maps on Android and iOS, we’re introducing features to help you easily find important information if you need to venture out, whether it’s by car or public transportation.”
The search giant has introduced these new features on Google Maps but they are being rolled out to selective regions, depending on the availability of resources. Here’s a look at the new features that you might soon be able to put to use:
The app will alert the user about how Covid-19 might impact their travel.
For public transit, the app will show relevant alerts from local transit agencies. These alerts can help prepare accordingly if government mandates impact transit services or require you to wear a mask on public transportation.
Transit alerts will be rolling out in India, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, France, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom and the U.S.
For people using their own vehicle or a personal cab, Google Maps is introducing driving alerts to notify about checkpoints and restrictions along the route. The user will see an alert on the directions screen and after starting navigation if the route is impacted by these restrictions.
For people traveling to medical facilities or Covid-19 testing centers, the app will display an alert reminding the user to verify eligibility and facility guidelines. This will help avoid the chance of being turned away or even to reduce additional strain on the local healthcare system. This feature for hospitals will be available from this week to Indonesia, Israel, the Philippines, South Korea, and the U.S., and for testing center alerts it will be available only in the U.S. for now.
Google claims that this information will only be shown when they’ve received authoritative data from local, state and federal governments or from their websites, and by actively working with other agencies around the world.
Avoiding crowded areas
Google Maps is building on an existing feature that will help public transit commuters get critical information about how busy a train or bus station is.
The app uses data from tens of millions of contributions from past riders to predict how crowded a particular bus line or train tends to be.
This information will be much simpler to access as well. The user will first look up Directions, then tap through to see the Transit Details, then scroll down to find crowdedness predictions (where available). Users can also easily contribute their own experiences to help other travelers.
Data from past riders will also show the times when a transit station is historically more or less busy to plan the trip accordingly.
Google Maps will also allow tracking of live data to show how busy a station is at that very moment in comparison to its usual level of activity. Simply search for a station in Google Maps or tap on the station on the map to see the departure board and busyness data, where available.
Google claims that these features are powered by aggregated and anonymized data from users who have opted in to Google Location History, a Google account-level setting that is off by default. The company claims that to protect privacy, these insights are only surfaced when we have sufficient data to meet privacy thresholds.