Google Maps Gets Smarter Route Optimization

At Apple’s WWDC event, the company announced new mapping features among several other iOS updates. Those included one notable nugget we examined recently: toll road notifications and routing. Not to be outdone, Google recently followed suit with a similar feature that will optimize routes for tolls.

Specifically, the feature automatically adds up tolls on a given route to give you a sense of how much it will cost. It also offers alternative routes and cost comparisons, along with the difference in ETA. The goal is to give drivers the tools they need to make quick decisions about optimal roads while in transit.

The feature will be turned on by default but users can turn it off in their Google Map settings. Meanwhile, to be clear, Google already offered info on whether or not a given route has tolls, but it didn’t do the extra work to tally up the total and offer smart alternate routing. It’s now more automated and prescriptive.

Apple Maps Gets its Latest Batch of Updates

Power Users

In addition to the new toll road feature, Google has separately released a mapping widget for Android devices to show live traffic status on the home screen. This should bring a Waze-like dynamic for easily seeing traffic patterns around you, which should resonate with heavy commuters and power users.

These moves also follow Google’s multisearch near me feature, unveiled at Google I/O. Separate but related to mapping, it will let users search for local businesses using a range of search inputs and modalities. For example, they can search for products in Google images, then refine results through text.

This gets more interesting when visual search is brought into the picture. Using Google Lens, users can scan items they see in the real world (think: fashion items) to find out where to buy similar items nearby. And like the above example, they can then refine with text and voice (e.g. “the same item in red”).

Visual search (Google Lens) and navigation (Live View) aspects of multisearch will take longer to penetrate. The technology and cultural adoption need more time in the oven. But the concept has lots of potential to be a more intuitive way to search, especially when smart glasses become more viable.

Google ‘Multisearch Near Me’ Blends Local & Visual


Stepping back, one of the fundamental sub-topics of the broader local commerce picture is mapping. Intertwined in local search and SEO, it’s central to the consumer shopping flow and, correspondingly, the local business marketing mix. And it continues to evolve rapidly, fueled by competitive pressure.

Though mapping is somewhat mature in its product lifecycle, we continue to see a feature arms race. That includes Google’s latest moves above, as well as those unveiled at Google I/O. In addition to Multisearch Near Me, it also launched new graphically-rich immersive 3D maps in several cities.

Fueling all this mapping investment from Mountain View are moves from Apple and others to catch up. Among those challengers, Snap continues to invest in mapping with competitive differentiation in a social layer that adds meaning, context, and use cases. This where it has an edge on Google and Apple.

Meanwhile, back to Google’s new toll road feature, it’s powered by live toll road data from local authorities for about 2,000 roads in the U.S., India, Japan and Indonesia. The company claims that more roads and countries will be added in the coming months at an unspecified rollout schedule.

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