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“Turn right at the Arby’s” – Google testing landmark directions in Maps

Google is testing a Google Maps feature that issues landmark directions, like "Keep left at the White Castle."

Published onApril 18, 2018

  • Google is testing landmark directions in Google Maps, like “Turn right after the McDonald’s.”
  • A limited number of users will see the testing. Some have already taken to Twitter to express their surprise at the new feature.
  • Google says the feature may not see a wide rollout in Google Maps, and the testing is part of a larger set of attempts to make navigation better.

Google Maps has offered turn-by-turn directions within the Android app for almost a decade now. In that time, the directions have remained fairly consistent: “Turn right onto Main Street,” and “Keep left at the traffic circle,” for example.

Now it seems that Google is testing a new way to deliver those instructions by using visual landmarks in the area. According to Engadget, the tests are part of a series of efforts to make voice guidance better. However, Google doesn’t commit to the landmark feature actually getting a broad rollout.

Various people took to Twitter, commenting that Google gave them landmark directions out of nowhere:

So @googlemaps instructed me to “turn right after Burger King” … I think this is the best update yet. #mindblown
— Deemah MS (@iamdeemah) April 14, 2018
Google Maps told me to make a right “right after the White Castle.” Does it do that now?
— Scott Stein (@jetscott) April 14, 2018

Theoretically, Google could use any type of permanent landmark to issue instructions, whether it’s a business, statue, street art, or historical monument. As long as the structure isn’t likely to change in a few years time, Google could use pretty much anything.

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However, it only makes sense to use a landmark if it’s better than using the street name. For example, if it’s fairly obvious where Main Street is (it is Main Street, after all), it would probably be better just to say, “Turn right onto Main Street.” But if you’re turning onto a road that is not marked or could possibly be confused with a road close by, it would work well to say, “Turn right after the Arby’s.”

This issue of having to decide if it’s more efficient to use a landmark or a street name is likely why Google isn’t committing to rolling out landmark directions.

Still, the idea of getting different sets of directions for different situations is a good one. Anything to prevent us getting lost is welcome!

NEXT: How to use Google Maps offline

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