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Google updates Maps to provide real-time crowd information for public transit amid COVID-19 pandemic

Google has partnered with the local authorities and updated the features while staying on the right side of the laws

COVID-19 has completely changed the way we think, relate and behave around people. Amid the ongoing pandemic, internet giant Google has come up with a new update in the Maps app that will provide real-time data related to the coronavirus pandemic. A few months ago, entering a crowded metro, local train, or a bus was not a big deal for most people. Though some people are not bothered by the spread of the virus, many want to practice social distancing and other precautions to be safe. Those who have medical issues such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc. need to be more cautious.

What’s new with Google Maps?

Google has introduced several features in the latest update that will help in relieving some stress. The latest version of Google Maps on both Android and iOS will help the users to stay informed about possible direct or indirect effects of COVID-19 during your trip. The new updates will be available in many countries, including India, Argentina, Belgium, US, United Kingdom, Australia, Colombia, France, Brazil, Netherlands, Spain, Thailand and Mexico.

In a blog post, Google announced the changes in an elaborate manner. Google has partnered with the local authorities and updated the features while staying on the right side of the laws. Here is a list of all the features that you can use in Google maps while commuting.

Maps will inform you about the checkpoints on your route. It will also notify you about the restrictions you have to follow while staying there. Google will add more locations and information in the coming weeks that will help you plan a safer trip. For example, when you are crossing the borders of Canada/US/ Mexico, the Maps will inform you about the restrictions you have to face, especially if you are from a hot zone or are entering one.

If you try to find medical centers or labs that are providing services related to COVID-19, Maps will alert you to check the facility’s guidelines and verify eligibility. However, these alerts are not available in all locations. Users from Indonesia, Israel, South Korea, the Philippines and the US will get information and restrictions or regulations about the medical facilities. The alerts for testing centers will be available for users in the US.

A blend of crowdedness predictions with new features

Last year Google introduced a feature that tells about the possible crowd in a public transit, aka crowdedness predictions. Google predicts the crowd based on the information users shared in Maps. Google uses non-anonymous data to provide virtually correct information about the crowd. Now users will be able to use this data to decide if they want to go to a crowded place or not.

Back in February, Google Maps introduced new insights like security onboard, accessibility and temperature. They also added a women-centric section in February and now they have rolled these featured for all the users. The experience of the former riders will help users to take a wise decision to save themselves from infection. You can also submit your feedback about the crowd etc. while checking your travel history or during the transit in Maps.

Google has a section for users who use wheelchairs as well. Visiting public places is never an easy task for such users. With new improved features, users who use wheelchairs can see if a particular place is wheelchair friendly or not and it will include information about seating, accessible doors and more.

Using the historical data of other users, you can ensure proper distancing. If the crowd is above average, it will be better not to plan a visit at such a location. One prime example for such a crowd can be Mumbai metros. The users will be able to see if the transit station is crowded in real time. For the next few weeks, Google is planning to strengthen the capabilities of the new features with the help of aggregated and anonymous data.

Privacy concerns

Those who have opted out from Google Maps do not want Google to store their information in any way. However, under these features, Google will aggregate the data marking it as from anonymous source. In the past, Google has been called out for using personal data of the users to show relevant ads based on personal choices. There will be some concerns among users about how Google is going to use this data.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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