Google Maps Adds Sidewalk Info

John Lister's picture

Google is making five tweaks to its Map services. It says the differences will make it safer and more useful.

The most spectacular, if arguably gimmicky, change is to Live View. That's an augmented reality feature which lets users hold up their phone and see the view from their camera with overlaid information from the Maps app.

It's meant for pedestrians (and preferably ones standing still) and will now include information such as details about shops and restaurants in view. It will also show the direction of chosen landmarks and show virtual street signs for navigating confusing intersections.

Pedestrians Aided

The next change is to the Street Maps, which is also designed for pedestrians. As well as extending the range of cities covered by the feature, Google is adding details such as whether the road has sidewalks and pedestrian islands. They'll be shown to scale, the idea being to help people using wheelchairs or baby carriages to better plan a route.

A more general tweak will show how busy a particular area is, based largely on how many people running Google Maps are in the area. Google, somewhat trying to have it both ways, suggests this is both a useful tool for people wanting to avoid crowds and an indicator for people looking for exciting and lively areas. (Source:

Braking A Factor

Google Maps as a whole will now automatically customize the locations it prioritizes for display. For example, it will show coffee shops rather than restaurants in the morning. It will also take into account the user's location: somebody away from their home area will see more tourist attractions highlighted on the map.

The final change is to the route planning for drivers. This already takes into account factors such as how many lanes a road has and how busy it is. Now the algorithm will also take into account the location of busy intersections that increase the chances of having to brake suddenly.

This won't be an overriding factor but will be something of a "tiebreaker" in suggesting the best route if it won't significantly increase the estimated journey time. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Do you often use Google Maps? Do any of these changes sound useful? What other features would you like to see in map apps?

| Tags:
Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (7 votes)


Boots66's picture

As far as I am concerned, Google Maps is an OK way to get around, and some of the new features may yet prove helpful, but Google Maps as the main map - NOPE!
Had to go a place in the opposite corner of town - got there and as we got close, Google Maps as has happened several times before, took me on a either the other three sides of the block before taking me to my location or took me on some circuitous route and then to my location.
Give me a good paper map any time so I can see the whole area and not a 3"X4" view

beach.boui's picture

Google Maps needs to include settings that enable or disable certain so-called "features" so people can use the app in the way that best suits their needs. I, for one, don't use the app the way Google must think I should. It is a very annoying Map app.

russoule's picture

I use Google maps to lay out a preliminary route to take advantage of the speedier routes when available. But the truth is that the GPS on the car is better for direct instructions, even though most of the maps on Tom-Tom are older(unless you pay for updates).

My squawk is that both of these maps, as well as Bing Maps, tend to be less than accurate the closer one gets to a destination, within a block or so. "Your destination is on the right." could mean that the actual destination is 3 buildings further ahead on the right or 2 buildings behind on the right. When I request "fastest" route, I often get a completely different route than my experience says is a faster route. And I am not sure that these apps take into account the type of road surface when they are predicting the "fastest" or the "scenic" or the "safest" route. Many times I have ended up on dirt roads because those were the "least distance" routes or the "fastest" routes.

Let's face it, these are electronic apps built around moving images produced by drivers in "normal" vehicles using an algorithm to attempt to differentiate various possibilities. They cannot, by nature of the input, be accurate all the time.