- Google is rolling out multiple Maps updates that help deal with the realities of COVID-19.
- You’ll now get more info about COVID-19 cases and local rules, and can track your takeout orders in real time.
- There’s also an Assistant driving mode preview that reads your texts and otherwise keeps your eyes on the road.
The COVID-19 pandemic will loom over the holiday season, and Google is reflecting that reality in its navigation app. The company is rolling out updates to Google Maps that help you navigate the COVID-19 landscape if you have to, and take care of your food needs when you’re (hopefully) staying home.
To start, Google is updating Maps’ COVID layer on Android and iOS with more detailed information about the new coronavirus in a given area, including links to local authorities’ resources. If you have no choice but to travel, you’ll at least know the rules at your destination. Maps will also show the crowding levels on public transportation using real-time feedback, so you’ll know if it’s too risky to hop aboard a bus.
Both those updates will arrive in the “coming weeks.”
You’ll have an easier time tracking meals if you decide to order in. Google Maps mobile users in the US, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Germany, and India now have the option to track food takeout and delivery orders in real time. You’ll need to have ordered through Maps, but you’ll know when it’s time to pick up an order or how close a delivery might be to your door. You’ll also see delivery fees, wait times, and an option to reorder previous orders. You’ll even see your reservation status at restaurants, although that clearly won’t be useful while the pandemic rages on.
When you do need to drive, you might have an easier time focusing on the road. Google Maps is giving US user a preview version of a long-in-the-making Assistant driving mode. Choose the pop-up option when you start navigation and you’ll get a streamlined way to track messages, play audio, and answer calls with minimal distractions. You can send or receive calls using your voice, and Assistant will read out your texts to spare you from reading your phone’s screen.
This is an unusual Maps release for Google — ideally, you won’t use most of these features during the holidays as you stay home and minimize the risk of catching COVID-19. They could still prove useful for those times you do need to leave, though, and features like food tracking will be useful long after the pandemic subsides.