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Archive for November, 2020

Make your own turkey trot with Google Maps

by Molly on Nov.24, 2020, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

Every Thanksgiving, before I settle into the couch to watch football or load my plate with multiple servings of stuffing, there’s another tradition I have to accomplish first: a turkey trot. 

If you don’t already know, a turkey trot is a Thanksgiving Day run. It’s usually a casual way to log a few miles before sitting down for the big meal. There are lots of community-led, organized Turkey Trots, but plenty of people do them casually as well. I’ve done them with running clubs, alongside family and friends and even participated in an official race or two. 

Even though I’m practicing social distancing this year, the turkey trot isn’t canceled. Instead, thanks to some help from Google Maps, it will be a semi-solo operation, with the option for friends and family—or really, anyone in the area—to virtually run “along” the route with me. Below, you can follow a few easy steps to create your own turkey trot as well. (These directions are for using Google Maps on desktop.) 

Step 1. First, open Google Maps and select the hamburger menu at left (the three lines in a row). When that opens, choose “Terrain.” Then, the map at right will show you the topography of your location, which is helpful if you want to avoid (or add) some hills to your run. 

Animated GIF showing Google Maps and the "terrain" option opening.

I also found it helpful to select the “Bicycling” option in this panel. This highlights the bike lanes and trails in your area, and I’ve found it particularly useful to find paths that cut through parks that are great for cyclists and pedestrians. Another great way to get an idea of what your run will look like is to jump into Street View so you can get a more accurate idea of what you’ll be running through.

Step 2. I’m going to start and end my race at a park, but you can start from wherever you want. I decided an eight-mile run sounds right, so I chose a half point of four miles on the map. This is a bit of trial and error (“Oops, that was only three miles away, and this point is about five”) until you find the best spot. And of course, this doesn’t have to be exact if you’re not trying to be too official. 

When you’re doing this, make sure you choose the “walking” icon, and also know that you can select the direction line on Google Maps to make the path a little longer or shorter. For example, I saw a bike trail that went through a park and dragged the dotted line through it. Just play around with this until you find the halfway mark that works for you.

Animated GIF showing Google Maps and directions being entered.

Step 3. On the left-hand side, choose “add destination,” and re-enter your original starting point. Follow the instructions from step three again to drag and adjust your path as desired to get to the mileage you want. You can also take advantage of some of Maps’ new features if you want to make sure you get your fill of fall foliage. Or if you want to run by the homes of friends and family for a quick hello as you go, use Maps’ list feature to mark them, or any other landmarks that you want to include in the route. 

Step 4. After you’ve completed creating your route, you can choose “Send directions to your phone” so you’ll have the map while you’re running. And if you select “Details,” you’ll see a share icon in the upper right-hand corner of this panel. There, you’ll get a link that you can share with family and friends. This way, they can try and recreate a similar path in their own neighborhood. 

Step 5. When I’m running a specific path like this, I like to turn on the detailed voice guide feature, which gives you more frequent alerts for navigation. It was built to help people who are visually impaired, but it’s also great for runners who don’t want to constantly glance at their phone for directions. In your Google Maps settings, select “Navigation,” and you’ll see an option at the bottom of the list under “Walking options” for “Detailed voice guidance.” 

Step 6. Now this is optional, but if you really want the full turkey trot experience, you can all choose a time to start your race and “run” together. There are a handful of apps that let you track and time your run. You can be as competitive (or non-competitive) as you want, with prizes for winners, or most-spirited. Get creative and add a scavenger hunt element to it: Runners get points for photos of Thanksgiving decorations, or local landmarks. Make it yours, and more importantly, make it fun. 

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Rachel Malarich is planting a better future, tree by tree

by Alicia Cormie on Nov.19, 2020, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

Everyone has a tree story, Rachel Malarich says—and one of hers takes place on the limbs of a eucalyptus tree. Rachel and her cousins spent summers in central California climbing the 100-foot tall trees and hanging out between the waxy blue leaves—an experience she remembers as awe-inspiring. 

Now, as Los Angeles first-ever City Forest Officer, Rachel’s work is shaping the tree stories that Angelenos will tell. “I want our communities to go to public spaces and feel that sense of awe,” she says. “That feeling that something was there before them, and it will be there after them...we have to bring that to our cities.”

Part of Rachel’s job is to help the City of Los Angeles reach an ambitious goal: to plant and maintain 90,000 trees by the end of 2021 and to keep planting trees at a rate of 20,000 per year after that. This goal is about more than planting trees, though: It’s about planting the seeds for social, economic and environmental equity. These trees, Rachel says, will help advance citywide sustainability and climate goals, beautify neighborhoods, improve air quality and create shade to combat rising street-level temperatures. 

To make sure every tree has the most impact, Rachel and the City of Los Angeles use Tree Canopy Lab, a tool they helped build with Google that uses AI and aerial imagery to understand current tree cover density, also known as “tree canopy,” right down to street-level data. Tree inventory data, which is typically collected through on-site assessments, helps city officials know where to invest resources for maintaining, preserving and planting trees. It also helps pinpoint where new trees should be planted. In the case of LA, there was a strong correlation between a lack of tree coverage and the city's underserved communities. 

With Tree Canopy Lab, Rachel and her team overlay data, such as population density and land use data, to understand what’s happening within the 500 square miles of the city and understand where new trees will have the biggest impact on a community. It helps them answer questions like: Where are highly populated residential areas with low tree coverage? Which thoroughfares that people commute along every day have no shade? 

And it also helps Rachel do what she has focused her career on: creating community-led programs. After more than a decade of working at nonprofits, she’s learned that resilient communities are connected communities. 

“This data helps us go beyond assumptions and see where the actual need is,” Rachel says. “And it frees me up to focus on what I know best: listening to the people of LA, local policy and urban forestry.” 

After working with Google on Tree Canopy Lab, she’s found that data gives her a chance to connect with the public. She now has a tool that quickly pools together data and creates a visual to show community leaders what’s happening in specific neighborhoods, what the city is doing and why it’s important. She can also demonstrate ways communities can better manage resources they already have to achieve local goals. And that’s something she thinks every city can benefit from. 

“My entrance into urban forestry was through the lens of social justice and economic inequity. For me, it’s about improving the quality of life for Angelenos,” Rachel says. “I’m excited to work with others to create that impact on a bigger level, and build toward the potential for a better environment in the future.”

And in this case, building a better future starts with one well planned tree at a time.

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Creating new tree shade with the power of AI and aerial imagery

by Nicole Lombardo on Nov.19, 2020, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

Most of us have heard the timeless proverb, "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Worldwide, there is growing discussion in cities about planting more trees as policymakers and neighbors look to increase shade on warming city streets.

Extreme temperatures are becoming more common in cities where concrete and infrastructure are now creating heat islands—areas that experience higher temperatures, leading to poor air quality, dehydration and other public health concerns. Trees are increasingly seen as a solution to both lowering street-level temperatures while improving quality of life. Yet many cities may not have the budget or resources to locate where every tree in town is, or where new tree-planting efforts are most needed.

With our new Tree Canopy Lab we are combining AI and aerial imagery to help cities see their current tree canopy coverage and plan future tree planting projects, starting with the City of Los Angeles. 

With the Tree Canopy Lab you can see Los Angeles’s trees with local context, like what percentage of a neighborhood has leafy cover, an area’s population density, what areas are vulnerable to extreme heat, and which neighborhood councils can help get new roots in the ground.

Tree Canopy lab is in our Environmental Insights Explorer platform, a tool that makes it easier for cities to measure, plan and reduce carbon emissions and pollution. It’s also one step forward in part our commitment to help hundreds of local governments fight climate change.


Tree Canopy Lab on a desktop device

Anyone can access the Tree Canopy Lab from a tablet or personal computer

Mapping tree cover to seed new urban forestry efforts

With aerial imagery collected from planes during the spring, summer and fall seasons, as well as Google AI and Google Earth Engine’s data analysis capabilities, we can now pinpoint all the trees in a city and measure their density. The imagery we use for these calculations includes color photos that closely represent how we would see a city from the sky. To get even more detailed information about the city’s canopy cover, near-infrared photos detect colors and details that human eyes can’t see and compare images from different angles to create a height map.

See tree cover in Los Angeles with Tree Canopy Lab

See tree cover in Los Angeles with Tree Canopy Lab

We then use a specialized tree-detection AI that automatically scans the images, detects the presence of trees and then produces a map that shows the density of tree cover, also known as “tree canopy.” 

With this tool, the City of Los Angeles doesn’t have to rely on expensive and time-intensive manual tree studies which can involve block-by-block tree surveys, outdated records, or incomplete studies which only count trees in public spaces.

From policymakers to neighbors, anyone can explore Los Angeles in the Tree Canopy Lab and glean insights. For example, the lab can help anyone identify residential blocks with high tree planting potential and locate sidewalks that are vulnerable to higher temperatures due to low canopy coverage.

Tree Canopy Lab's AI scans aerial images, detects the presence of trees and then produces a map that shows the density of tree cover

Tree Canopy Lab's AI scans aerial images, detects the presence of trees and then produces a map that shows the density of tree cover

With Tree Canopy Lab we’ve found that more than 50 percent of Angelenos live in areas with less than 10 percent tree canopy coverage and 44 percent of Angelenos live in areas with extreme heat risk. We also see a correlation that shows parts of Los Angeles with the lowest heat risk also have the highest tree canopy coverage — these areas are also the lowest population density of Angelenos.


Connecting cities with new environmental insights

Los Angeles has been on the forefront of cities using urban forestry to not only advance sustainability goals, but to beautify neighborhoods, improve air quality and bring down street-level temperatures as the region gets hotter due to climate change.

With a near-term goal of planting and maintaining 90,000 trees by 2021 and continuing to plant trees at a rate of 20,000 per year across a city of more than 503 square miles, the Tree Canopy Lab is already helping people across the city reach this goal. From neighbors and community organizations to Mayor Eric Garcetti and the city’s first-ever forestry officer, Rachel Malarich, they all have access to a birds-eye view of where the city’s existing trees are and which areas need more greenery. 


“Every tree we plant can help stem the tide of the climate crisis, and when we expand our urban forest, we can sow the seeds of a healthier, more sustainable and equitable future for communities hit hardest by rising temperatures and intensifying heat waves. Google’s technology will help us bring the power of trees to families and households across Los Angeles -- adding greenery to our public spaces, injecting beauty into our city, and bringing cooler temperatures to our neighborhoods.” 

-Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti


More tree insights for more cities on the horizon

We’ll be making the insights in Tree Canopy Lab available to hundreds of more cities in the year to come as we continue to support the ambitious work cities like Los Angeles are doing to embark on tree planting and maintenance initiatives. 


We invite city planners and policymakers to reach out to kickstart a conversation with us sharing their interest through this form.

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Google Maps: your holiday sidekick

by Holly Day on Nov.17, 2020, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

The holiday season is starting—which means time with friends, family, and lots of food. And though festivities may be a bit different this year, there are still creative, safe ways to celebrate and stay connected. No matter what you have in store for the holidays, these Google Maps tips can help you stay informed, stay connected and save time.

Stay informed even while running holiday errands and traveling

1. Check out how busy a place is:Popular times and live busyness information can tell you how crowded a place typically is on a given day or time—and even how busy it is right now. This is especially handy during the era of social distancing: Check out busyness on Maps before you head to a restaurant, store, business, or place to avoid holiday crowds and long waits.

2. (New!) Find the latest information about COVID-19: If you’re thinking about heading out of town to another city or state, you can use the COVID layer on Maps to quickly see how cases are trending in the area. You can also access quick links to authoritative local resources so you know at a glance if there are specific guidelines or restrictions in the area you’re visiting. 

3. Quickly understand safety precautions from a business: If you're eating out or getting a head start on your holiday shopping, you can easily learn more about what safety precautions a business is taking. Find out if they’re sanitizing between customers, if there's safety dividers at checkout and if they require staff to have regular temperature checks.

If you need to, connect safely

4. Share your ETA:If you need to see loved ones, let them know when they can expect you to arrive with you just a few taps. 

5. Don’t get lost: Planning to meet up with friends outdoors and at a distance? When a friend has chosen to share their location with you, you can easily tap on their icon and then on Live View to see where and how far away they are—with overlaid arrows and directions that help you know where to go.

Save time so you can spend more time enjoying the festivities 

6. (New!) Get more done on drives:If you’re road tripping home, using voice with Google Assistant driving mode in Maps helps make the ride more convenient and enjoyable while keeping your focus on the road. Starting to roll out today as a preview, Android users in the U.S. can now get call alerts from Assistant, answer or decline calls by simply using their voice, quickly review incoming messages across apps in one place, and play podcasts and songs from hundreds of media providers—all without leaving the navigation screen. 

7. (New!) Don’t let your food get cold: If you’re taking a low-key approach to the holidays this year and opting to order in instead of cooking an elaborate meal, Google Maps can help. When searching on your phone for restaurants nearby, you can easily sort by places that offer takeout or delivery and place your order directly from Google Maps. Now you can also see exactly when your order will be delivered or ready to pick up on the app’s home screen—because nobody likes cold turkey!

8. Search along your route:  If you’re on the road and realize you need to make a stop—say you’re running low on gas or need to pick up a last-minute item from the market—use Google Maps to search for gas stations, grocery stores, or other places along your drive so you can tackle your tasks without going too far out of your way. 

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Br(rr)ing on the holiday trends from Google Maps

by Holly Day on Nov.17, 2020, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

This holiday, family gatherings will be smaller or take place virtually to make sure everyone stays safe and healthy. Indoor activities will move outdoors. And that international holiday vacation will potentially transform into an epic road trip to nearby attractions as you stop to sightsee at local hidden gems along the way. But even still, people are prepping to make classic holiday dishes, looking for ways to experience winter and finding new, safe ways to be together.

We’ve analyzed Google Maps data before and during the pandemic (for the purposes of this post, we analyzed data from March to October 2020) to see how people across the U.S. are getting ready for the holidays. Read on for top trends on how people are navigating, how they’re spending their time and what type of food they’re craving.

Dashing through the snow, in a

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Google Maps updates to get you through the holidays

by Dane Glasgow on Nov.17, 2020, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

This year, we’ve made it easier to find information that helps you stay safe, up-to-date, and connected. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve added nearly 250 new features and improvements to Google Maps to help you adapt to this new normal—from live busyness information for millions of places, to the ability to easily see critical health and safety information at a glance. And 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. If you need to be out and about this holiday season, here are four ways that Google Maps can help you get around safely and get things done.


Get around

Whether you’re heading out of town or staying local, keeping a pulse on the latest COVID trends can help you stay safe. Since we launched the COVID layer, it’s helped nearly 10 million people get critical information about COVID-19 right from Google Maps. 

We’re rolling out two new improvements in the coming weeks. The updated COVID layer on Android and iOS will soon show more information, including all-time detected cases in an area, along 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.

COVID Layer V2

Now you can see all-time detected COVID-19 cases in an area and links to local, authoritative resources right from the COVID layer.

Avoiding holiday crowds might have always been your thing, but this year, we’re making it especially easy for everyone. If you need to take transit, Google Maps can help you more easily social distance with live crowdedness information. 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).

Live Transit Crowdedness

See how crowded your transit line is right now.

The right information, at just the right time

You may be in the mood to cook an elaborate holiday meal—or you may not. If you fall into the latter category, we’re rolling out the ability to see the live status of takeout and delivery orders in the United States, Canada, Germany, Australia, Brazil and India when you book or order from Google Maps on Android and iOS. Now, you can know when to pick up your food, or when you can expect it to arrive at your doorstep. You can also see expected wait times and delivery fees, and easily reorder your favorites right from the Google Maps app. And when it’s safe to head to restaurants, you’ll soon be able to quickly see the status of your reservation in 70 countries around the world.

live delivery

Now you can see the live status of your takeout or delivery order.

Get more done

Even without a global pandemic, the holidays are busy and you may need to spend some time on the road. Last year, we shared an early look at Google Assistant driving mode in Maps, and today, we're starting to roll out an early preview of the improved experience to Android users in English in the U.S.—with more features coming soon. 

Thanks to the new driving-friendly Assistant interface, you can easily get more done while keeping your focus on the road. Use voice to send and receive calls and texts, quickly review new messages across your messaging apps in one place, and get a read-out of your texts so you don’t need to look down at your phone—Assistant will even alert you to an incoming call so you can answer or decline with voice. You can also play media from hundreds of providers around the globe, including YouTube Music, Spotify, Google Podcasts and many more. Driving mode makes all of this possible without ever leaving the navigation screen, so you can minimize distractions on the road. To get started with driving mode, begin navigating to a destination with Google Maps and tap on the pop up to get started. Or, 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.

assistant driving mode

Assistant driving mode in Maps lets you get more done while keeping your focus on the road

While the ways we make life easier for you have changed, our commitment to do this has been there all along. Over the past 15 years, Google Maps has used technology to bring helpful information about the real world right to your fingertips. To make sure that information is as accurate and up-to-date as possible, we rely on 170 billion high-definition Street View images from 87 countries, contributions from hundreds of millions of businesses and people using Google Maps, and authoritative data from more than 10,000 local governments, transit agencies and organizations. We also invest in technical approaches that power some of our most beloved and essential features—from the 20 million places globally that now show popular times data to AR-powered Live View. 

Even in a pandemic, more than 1 billion people still turn to Google Maps to navigate their new normal—and our work is far from done. We’re continually working to build new features and services to help all of us emerge from this challenging time stronger than ever. So whatever your plans are this holiday season and no matter how much they’ve changed, Google Maps can make them easier and safer for you.

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Tips for holiday travel and beyond

by Richard Holden on Nov.10, 2020, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

While many people will celebrate the holidays at home this year, 40 percent of Americans are still planning to travel. Here are a few ways Google can help you make informed travel decisions or revisit trips from holidays past.

Stay up to date on the latest travel information

When you search on Google for information about hotels, flights or things to do, check to see if there’s a COVID-19 travel advisory or restriction for your destination. If there are no restrictions, you can see indicators for travel reopening, like the percentage of flights operating or hotels with availability, directly in your Search results. On google.com/travel you can also see trends for flight and hotel availability over the past six months, as well as links to local resources, like the number of COVID-19 cases in the area.

Book accommodation confidently

Earlier this year we added a hotel “Free cancellation” filter on Search and google.com/travel to help you easily find properties with a refundable rate. In addition to refundable rates, many hotels and vacation rentals are taking additional measures to ensure the safety of guests in response to COVID-19. Now when you search for a place to stay on google.com/travel and view a specific property, you may see a tip when additional health and safety precautions, like enhanced cleaning, are being taken. Tap on the “About” tab to see the full list.

On google.com/travel on the hotels tab you see the Kimpton Brice Hotel overview with price and availability information. When you scroll down you see a badge indicating there are additional health & safety attributes. On a click, you are taken to the "About" tab where you see multiple attributes including enhanced cleaning, minimized contact, physical distancing, personal protection and food safety.


We’re working with hotels and vacation rental providers, as well as industry associations, to add more health and safety information to the results you see. If you’re a hotel owner, verify your business using Google My Business, and let guests know what measures you’re taking to keep them safe by adding health and safety attributes to your Business Profile. 

See local COVID-19 information 

If you’re planning to visit a new city, you can use the COVID layer in Google Maps to quickly get information about COVID-19 cases in the area—so you can make more informed decisions about where to go and what to do. 

Stay informed on the road

Once you’re headed out on your trip, you can use Google Maps to see helpful safety alerts along the way. If you’re driving, we’ll notify you about COVID-19 checkpoints and restrictions along your route, like when crossing national borders. If you plan to take public transportation, we’ll show you alerts from local transit agencies, so you can quickly know if government mandates impact transit services or require you to wear a mask while riding the bus, subway, or train.

Get nostalgic & relive past trips

For those not traveling this holiday season, you can use new features in Google Maps or Google Photos to take a walk down memory lane. If you’re using Maps on Android, you can soon access the new “Trips” tab in Timeline to see a summary of your past vacations, along with information about the places you visited, the total kilometers traveled, and the modes of transportation you used. If you choose to turn on your Location History setting, you can use Trips in Timeline as a handy tool if you’re feeling nostalgic or want to share vacation recommendations with friends or family. 

In Google Maps, tap on the Trips tab on your Timeline to see trips recently taken. Tap on the first one to France and scroll through places you've visited and destinations you've been to.

You can also see and share your past trip itineraries including hotels, restaurants and other places you’ve received reservation confirmations for in your Gmail by going togoogle.com/travel and tapping on the “Trips” tab. 

In Google Photos, you can already see photos grouped by location with theinteractive map view. In the coming weeks, we’re bringing Timeline to the Photos map view, so you can easily see the paths you took on a certain day alongside your photos—whether you captured that epic shot while hiking through Yellowstone, or while driving down the scenic Pacific Coast Highway. You can choose to show or hide your Timeline from your map view's settings in Photos at any time.

If you will be traveling over the holidays, here’s a handy checklist to help you make informed decisions as you plan.

There are 4 phones showing different ways to help you plan travel over the holidays. 1) Search for something like "Hotels in Toronto" and you see a travel restriction warning. 2) Search for "things do in Austin" and you see reopening travel trends for Austin. 3) You can use a "free cancellation" filter for hotels 4) See health & safety attributes on the hotels tab at google.com/travel.
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