Google — facing increasing competition from other apps like Instagram and TikTok when it comes to consumers searching for things — wants to be the first place people go for discovery and planning pastimes. In aid of that, today the company announced three new features for its star navigation app, Google Maps: aerial and more immersive views of 100 landmarks, more detailed cycling routes, and improved location sharing with notifications for the arrival and departure of your friends.
Google Maps has long been adding in more features beyond just giving you the ability to plan how to get from A to B, and even some of the features today are essentially interim steps in longer upgrade strategies. The company first introduced the idea of immersive views at its developer conference Google IO back in May with an aim to creating 3D models of landmarks by using a fusion of Street View, satellite, and aerial images. With that in mind, the company is now rolling out immersive views of more than 100 places situated in cities like Barcelona, London, New York, San Francisco, and Tokyo.
But while the feature is currently restricted to landmarks, the company mentioned at Google IO it plans to apply this to restaurants and neighborhoods as well so users can check out how they look before visiting. All of this ties into the firm’s effort to make people use Google Maps as a preferred app for place discovery.
Notably, Prabhakar Raghavan, the company’s senior vice president for Knowledge & Information organization, said at a conference last month that young people are using Instagram and Tiktok more to discover restaurants and other places to visit. Earlier this month, Instagram rolled out a searchable maps feature so people can find new places to visit.
Google Maps’ second feature announcement is about detailed cycling routes. The company has had turn-by-turn cycling navigation on the app for more than a decade, and has added features like elevation profile and bikesharing locations along the way. Today’s update gives even more data to bike riders: it will tell cyclists if they should expect heavy car traffic and helpfully what kind of road they will travel on — a major road, a minor road, a bike lane, or a shared path. Plus, it’ll also tell users if there will be any obstacles in the way like steep hills or stairs. This puts Google Maps on closer par to how various cyclist-first navigation apps work and help make using Google Maps more reliable, especially in less familiar areas or more unpredictable routes.
Finally, Google is also updating location sharing, which lets you share your live location for a specified time through a URL, by introducing notifications for arrival and departure for a particular location. Here’s how it works: If you’re meeting a group of friends at a restaurant, you can set the location notification for that restaurant so that when your friends who are sharing location with you arrive at the destination, you can know immediately. Similarly, users can set a notification for departure from a place so they can know when their friends or family have left the place.
Google said it’ll send repeated reminders to users through the Maps app and emails if they are continuously sharing location notifications with someone, so you can turn them off from the Location Sharing section if needed.
All features will be available for Google Maps users on iOS and Android with the immersive view and location sharing notification rolling out today, and cycling route information rolling out in coming weeks to cities where cycling navigation is available.