Amid COVID-19, Google Maps gets features to ensure safe travel
As countries like India begin to come out of lockdown and restart economic activities, Google is racing to launch tools to protect the general public from COVID-19. The company has already rolled out a contact-tracing system built with Apple, and now, it is introducing new capabilities into Maps to help people get around safely via public/private modes of transportation. Here's all about it.
New public transit alerts from the government
First, Google is starting to show relevant COVID-19-related public transit alerts on Maps. The feature, implemented using governments' guidance, will notify you if a particular transportation service has been stopped/reduced due to governments' orders or if you need to follow a specific protocol while traveling. The notification will appear as you look up public transit directions for a particular trip.
Public transit alerts are now active in India
Google says COVID-19-related public transit alerts are now active in India as well as in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, France, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom, and the US.
Notifications on COVID-19 checkpoints along routes
Google Maps are also getting the ability to notify you about COVID-19 checkpoints along your route, like when you are crossing borders. Also, when navigating to a medical facility or testing center, the app will alert you with facility guidelines and the eligibility for visiting so that you are not turned away at the last minute. Both features are not yet available in India.
Improved crowdedness prediction
Google is even improving the crowdedness prediction capabilities of Maps. Now, while looking for directions and transit details, you can quickly see how crowded a bus/train tends to be at a particular time and contribute your own experience from the same page. There are also options to give feedback on other elements, like accessibility and security, to boost Maps' database and help other travelers.
Finally, the ability to see how crowded a station is
As social distancing is the need of the hour, Google is using anonymized location data from phones to show how crowded a station is at a particular time. The feature, rolling out in the coming weeks, works only when sufficient data is available at a particular station and can be used to see when the place remains more or less busy to plan trips.