Mapping Mashup, Part I: Google

As we continue to digest and break down all the takeaways from last week’s Google I/O conference, one of the areas that saw notable updates is Google Maps. Being central to local commerce, mapping developments impact the ongoing evolution of SMB marketing. And Google continues to lead the pack.

So what are the latest updates and implications? Highlights include new routing capabilities, updates to Live View AR navigation, new levels of mapping detail, personalized map settings and a new “area busyness” feature. These are all part of Google’s stated goal to integrate 100+ AI-fueled Maps features this year.

But Google is not alone in its mapping enhancements. Closely following Google I/O was Snap’s Partner Summit, during which it likewise elevated some of its mapping features. These build on Snap’s ongoing Mapping efforts that we continue to track, and we’ll be back in part II of this series to dive into those.

Meanwhile, let’s tackle Google’s new mapping updates…

Google Maps Gets More Intelligent and Visual

Hard Breaks

Starting with routing updates, Google will apply machine learning and navigation data to better inform drivers proactively about dynamic traffic conditions. Specifically, it would like to lessen “hard breaking moments” — those times you’re surprised by sudden traffic slowdowns and have to slam on your brakes.

This relevance factor will be included in the criteria that Google uses to suggest the best route. Reducing these hard-braking moments now joins the mix for a more intelligent tool. The soonest ETA trumps this factor, but it could serve as a tie-breaker when the ETA is the same or similar between several routes.

A similar planning utility will be offered by the new “area busyness” feature. This builds on busyness ratings that Google already provides for businesses, informing searchers about times they’re likely to be busiest (helpful in a pandemic). It now does the same for parts of towns or neighborhoods (think: street fairs).

Using similar technology, Google will customize mapping experiences for each user’s unique variables, such as location or time of day. So if it’s noon on a weekday, a user may see lunch spots dominate the map, while morning hours may highlight coffee shops. If you’re traveling, you may see tourist more traps.

Google Upgrades Live View AR Navigation, Part II

Search What You See

Next on the list of updates is Live View, which is Google’s AR navigation feature that we continue to track closely. The latest updates make the feature more accessible. It can now be launched directly from the map interface (as opposed to within navigation functions), to explore surroundings more visually.

This means users can activate Live View directly from the map to then see graphical overlays that reveal information about storefronts in view. These overlays can include standard listings content from Google My Business, including business name, hours of operation, reviews, photos, and busyness rating.

This update brings Live View to more of a discovery tool, versus just a utility for navigation. But it will still have utility, and a few updates underscore that. For example, Live View can now tell you where you are in relation to your hotel, so you can navigate back with intuitive visuals when traveling in a new city.

Speaking of visuals, Google is boosting the level of map detail. Following the more granular levels of detail that it offererd in New York, San Francisco, and London last year, it’s rolling out the functionality to 50 more cities. New map details include things like crosswalks, sidewalks, and pedestrian islands.

We’ll be back in Part II of this series to examine Snap’s mapping updates. 

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