My Google Map Blog

Archive for March, 2021

Redefining what a map can be with new information and AI

by Dane Glasgow on Mar.30, 2021, 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

Sixteen years ago, many of us held a printout of directions in one hand and the steering wheel in the other to get around— without information about the traffic along your route or details about when your favorite restaurant was open. Since then, we’ve been pushing the boundaries of what a map can do, propelled by the latest machine learning. This year, we’re on track to bring over 100 AI-powered improvements to Google Maps so you can get the most accurate, up-to-date information about the world, exactly when you need it. Here's a snapshot of how we're using AI to make Maps work better for you with a number of updates coming this year.

Navigate indoors with Live View

We all know that awkward moment when you're walking in the opposite direction of where you want to go — Live View uses AR cues to avoid just that. Live View is powered by a technology called global localization, which uses AI to scan tens of billions of Street View images to understand your orientation. Thanks to new advancements that help us understand the precise altitude and placement of objects inside a building, we’re now able to bring Live View to some of the trickiest-to-navigate places indoors: airports, transit stations and malls. 


If you’re catching a plane or train, Live View can help you find the nearest elevator and escalators, your gate, platform, baggage claim, check-in counters, ticket office, restrooms, ATMs and more. Arrows and accompanying directions will point you the right way. And if you need to pick something up from the mall, use Live View to see what floor a store is on and how to get there so you can get in and out in a snap. Indoor Live View is live now on Android and iOS in a number of malls in Chicago, Long Island, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle. It starts rolling out in the coming months in select airports, malls, and transit stations in Tokyo and Zurich, with more cities on the way. 

Indoor live view 2

Find your way inside airports, train stations, and malls with Indoor Live View

Plan ahead with more information about weather and air quality 

With the new weather layer, you can quickly see current and forecasted temperature and weather conditions in an area — so you’ll never get caught in the rain without an umbrella. And the new air quality layer shows you how healthy (or unhealthy) the air is —  information that’s especially helpful if you have allergies or are in a smoggy or fire-prone area. Data from partners like The Weather Company, AirNow.gov and the Central Pollution Control Board power these layers that start rolling out on Android and iOS in the coming months. The weather layer will be available globally and the air quality layer will launch in Australia, India, and the U.S., with more countries to come. 

Head outside with the new weather and air quality layers

See helpful air quality and weather information with new layers in Google Maps

Find more eco-friendly options to get around

With insights from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab, we’re building a new routing model that optimizes for lower fuel consumption based on factors like road incline and traffic congestion. This is all part of the commitment we made last September to help one billion people who use our products take action to reduce their environmental footprint. Soon, Google Maps will default to the route with the lowest carbon footprint when it has approximately the same ETA as the fastest route. In cases where the eco-friendly route could significantly increase your ETA, we’ll let you compare the relative CO2 impact between routes so you can choose. Always want the fastest route? That’s OK too — simply adjust your preferences in Settings. Eco-friendly routes launch in the U.S. on Android and iOS later this year, with a global expansion on the way.

Eco-friendly routes let you choose the route with the lowest carbon footprint

More eco-friendly routes let you choose the route with the lowest carbon footprint

From Amsterdam to Jakarta, cities around the world have established low emission zones — areas that restrict polluting vehicles like certain diesel cars or cars with specific emissions stickers —  to help keep the air clean. To support these efforts, we’re working on alerts to help drivers better understand when they’ll be navigating through one of these zones. You can quickly know if your vehicle is allowed in the area, choose an alternative mode of transportation, or take another route. Low emission zone alerts launch this June in Germany, the Netherlands, France, Spain, and the UK on Android and iOS, with more countries coming soon. 

Low emission zone alerts launch in

Quickly know if your vehicle is allowed in the area, choose an alternative mode of transportation, or take another route with low emission zone alerts

But we know that getting around sustainably goes beyond driving. So we’re making it easier to choose more sustainable options when you’re on the go. Soon you’ll get a comprehensive view of all routes and transportation modes available to your destination — you can compare how long it’ll take to get there by car, transit or bike without toggling between tabs. Using advanced machine learning models, Maps will automatically prioritize your preferred modes  — and even boost modes that are popular in your city. For example, if you bike a lot, we’ll automatically show you more biking routes. And if you live in a city like New York, London, Tokyo, or Buenos Aires where taking the subway is popular, we’ll rank that mode higher. This rolls out globally in the coming months on Android and iOS.

new directions experience

Easily compare different routes and modes of transportation with the new directions experience

Save time with curbside grocery pickup on Maps

Delivery and curbside pickup have grown in popularity during the pandemic — they’re convenient and minimize contact. To make this process easier, we’re bringing helpful shopping information to stores’ Business Profiles on Maps and Search, like delivery providers, pickup and delivery windows, fees, and order minimums. We’re rolling this out on mobile Search starting with Instacart and Albertsons Cos. stores in the U.S., with plans to expand to Maps and other partners.

pickup and delivery actions

Check out helpful information about grocery delivery providers, pickup and delivery windows, fees, and order minimums

This summer, we’re also teaming up with U.S. supermarket Fred Meyer, a division of The Kroger Co., on a pilot in select stores in Portland, Oregon to make grocery pickup easier. After you place an order for pickup on the store’s app, you can add it to Maps. We’ll send you a notification when it’s time to leave, and let you share your arrival time with the store. Your ETA is continuously updated, based on location and traffic. This helps the store prioritize your order so it’s ready as soon as you get there. Check in on the Google Maps app, and they’ll bring your order right out for a seamless, fast, no-contact pickup. 

pickup with google maps

Track your grocery order status, share your ETA, and let the store know you've arrived - all from Google Maps

All of these updates are possible thanks to AI advancements that have transformed Google Maps into a map that can reflect the millions of changes made around the world every day —  in the biggest cities and the smallest towns. Whether you’re getting around, exploring an area, or knocking out errands, let Google Maps help you find your way.

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A Local Guide uses Google Maps to help those without homes

by Molly on Mar.13, 2021, 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

When Ashley Sundquist moved to Santa Monica, California four years ago, she noticed something different from the other places she’d lived. “I’ve lived in big cities much of my adult life; I’ve lived in Washington, D.C., Rome and New York City,” she says, “and none of those places prepared me for how many people here in Santa Monica are unhoused.” Santa Monica is part of the greater Los Angeles area, and according to city statistics, 907 people experience homelessness on any given night in the city; if you widen the area to include all of L.A., that number skyrockets to approximately 66,000. 

During her morning commute, Ashley noticed how many people were living outside and gathering at the Santa Monica Public Library. Her gym was next door, and eventually, Ashley started crossing the street to say hello. Soon, she’d made connections with library employees and the people without homes who gathered there, and she began looking for ways to help. 

She also became friends with a man named Joe, an unhoused member of the community who was often at the library. Joe mentioned he struggled with getting lost, which inspired her to turn to Google Maps and the app’s list feature. You can use this to create a list of places, like your favorite restaurants or places you want to visit on vacation. As an active member of the Local Guides program, a global community of contributors on Google Maps, Ashley was no stranger to sharing helpful information about her community with others.

So Ashley started creating lists for people in need. She made lists of resources for young people experiencing homelessness, food banks and restaurants that accept EBT cards. To make things even easier to find, Ashley bought  the domains “lashelters.org” and “lashelters.com,” which send visitors to these lists. “Now when anybody in the world goes to one of those websites, they’ll see these maps,” Ashley says. Joe and Ashley also became friends, and he helped get the word out about the websites. 

Screenshot of Ashley’s Google Maps list for youth resources in L.A.

Ashley’s Google Maps list for youth resources in L.A.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, Ashley had to pivot. Right away she volunteered her time to teach caseworkers (via Google Meet) how to create their own lists in Google Maps. “I walked them through step-by-step how to search for locations, update the description and share the URL,” she says. She also created a list to help people find free Wi-Fi after many restaurants, coffee shops and other places that offer internet access closed their doors, and another list to help people find transportation to shelters when COVID-19 precautions altered bus schedules. 

Still, things changed so dramatically so quickly; she wanted to do more. “Toward the end of last March, I realized things weren’t going to go back to the way they were anytime soon. I knew how our outreach efforts were going to have to be different.” She started consulting with local agencies to gather information for more lists, or update the ones she’d already made with new COVID-19-related restrictions, changing hours or other stipulations. 

“I hope this can help people get through their day with dignity and humanity. That’s what we’re all trying to do right now.”

Eventually she wanted to try getting the information she’d gathered out in person. In May, she started volunteering at a weekly dinner serving some 150 unhoused neighbors at her local Salvation Army. Soon, she began leading dinners and helped her church get more involved. “We have 20 or so volunteers, with masks, temperature checks, distanced, all of that,” she says. “It’s a huge undertaking but I feel like it gives me a captive audience. Our team can bring a little light and love into a very dark place. We can help people find local resources on the Google Maps lists.”

Ashley looks through Google Maps lists with her friend Joe, whom she met through her work with unhoused people. Joe is also an advocate for his community.

Ashley looks through Google Maps lists with her friend Joe, whom she met through her work with unhoused people. Joe is also an advocate for his community.

Ashley greets everyone as they wait in line for their meal and makes an effort to learn names. “It might be the only time someone speaks to them or uses their name that week,” she explains. “I really work to build a rapport so then I can say to them, ‘Oh I see you’re having trouble getting this or finding that.’” Then she takes out her phone and shares her Google Maps lists on the spot. Ashely notes that many people without homes have smartphones, which act as their lifelines, but if she’s speaking with someone without one, Ashley uses her own to access her lists to call and try to help get them what they need — whether it’s a spot at a shelter or a no-cost doctor appointment.

“People are dealing with homelessness, trauma, hunger, mental health issues, technology barriers...I feel like the least I can do is make the available resources easier to find  with a Google Maps list,” she says. 

Ashley’s hope is that her neighbors feel seen and cared for, and that the Google Maps lists help them meet their basic needs. “I don’t think people realize how tremendously difficult it is to get help when you’re experiencing homelessness,” she says. “I hope this can help people get through their day with dignity and humanity. That’s what we’re all trying to do right now.” 

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Three new ways anyone can update Google Maps

by Kevin Reece on Mar.12, 2021, 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


With all the change our world saw over the past year, people are relying more than ever on high-quality, updated information about the places around them — like if a nearby restaurant is open or if a local grocery store has updated hours.

To make sure your map reflects the real world, we make it easy for anyone with a Google account to contribute their local knowledge about more than 200 million places in Google Maps. These community-led updates help people everywhere make better decisions about what to do and where to go. And at the heart of the fresh information you see on Google Maps are Local Guides. This community of contributors who help others by updating Google Maps has reached a new milestone: 150 million Local Guides around the world. 

Today, we’re introducing three new Google Maps features that will help make sharing and finding local recommendations and information easier.


Leave reviews and updates as part of a community challenge

We see people showing love and support for local businesses in Google Search and Maps by leaving photos, writing reviews or updating factual information like a store’s new hours. We want to amplify that same local love with a feature we are now piloting.  

For the next month, most people using Android in the U.S. can join our first nationwide challenge to rally helpful reviews, photos and updates from sea to shining sea. Simply jump into the Contribute tab in Google Maps to join the “Local Love challenge” and add ratings, reviews and confirm information to support local businesses you’ve visited, from your go-to bakery to the neighborhood hardware store. Each contribution will count toward a collective goal of updating 100,000 businesses. We’ll use feedback on the Local Love challenge to guide future campaigns in more countries.

Image of the Local Love challenge in Google Maps

Join the Local Love challenge today to update 100,000 U.S. businesses on Google Maps

Share your latest experiences with photo updates on Maps

Seeing is believing and photos are a great way to learn more about a place. But sometimes you need a little more information, like if a restaurant’s outdoor dining area is shaded on hot days or how crowded a parking lot for a popular hiking trail can get on the weekends. At other times, you might just want to share a helpful tip on Google Maps without having to leave a rating or review.  In the coming weeks, we’ll roll out a new content type in Google Maps: photo updates — an easy way to find and share experiences and highlights with recent photos. A Google Maps photo update is a recent snapshot of a place with a short text description, without the need to leave a review or rating. 

Simply go to the “Updates” tab when you’re looking at a place in Google Maps to see the latest photos that merchants and other people have shared. To add your own update, tap the “upload a photo update” button, select your photos, leave a short description and post. You can post as many photos as you want and find photo updates that others have left in the Updates tab. 

An image of a photo update in Google Maps

Photo updates can help people make more informed decisions with a place’s most recent images

Draw new or missing roads on Maps 

We’ve made it easier for you to report road changes with a new, immersive desktop road editing tool. When you see a road missing on maps.google.com, simply click on the side menu button, go to “Edit the map”, and select “Missing Road.” Now the power to map is in your hands! 

Add missing roads by drawing lines, quickly rename roads, change road directionality, and realign or delete incorrect roads. You can even let us know if a road is closed with details like dates, reasons and directions. To make sure the suggestions and edits are accurate, we’ll vet contributed road updates before publishing them.

This feature is rolling out over the coming months in more than 80 countries where people can already report road updates on Google Maps.


A YouTube video demonstrating. the new desktop road editing tool in Google Maps
10:25

In more than 80 countries, people can easily edit roads on maps.google.com

A growing community on Google Maps

Since we launched the Local Guides program six years ago, Local Guides have contributed more than 70% of the reviews, photos and other types of user-generated content you see on Google Maps. They’re people like Leyley from Texas who is passionate about supporting small businesses, and Mahabub in Bangladesh who hosts local meet-ups focused on things like sustainability and supporting people during COVID-19.

An image of various Local Guides

Local Guides are instrumental in helping others through their contributions on Google Maps. Learn more about the Local Guides whose efforts we recently recognized and celebrated.

In 2020 alone, Local Guides added more than 8 million places to Google Maps, from local businesses and services to parks and plazas. And during a year where we saw much change, they went above and beyond and updated business attributes on more than 17 million places in Maps, like if a restaurant offers takeout or is open for dine-in.

If you’ve discovered something new in Google Maps or found helpful information about a place, chances are it was with the help of a Google Maps Local Guide.

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