Travel Tech: Google Maps Gets A Makeover

From the temperature of your train carriage to real-time directions on the street, the new-look Google Maps makes exploring the world so much easier.

It was invented in Australia and has grown to become the most popular navigational app in the world, with more than one billion users.

But this week’s overhaul of Google Maps, to mark its 15th anniversary, makes it a must-have tool for any wide-eyed adventurer, with a host of features that aren’t immediately obvious.

The first thing you’ll notice when you update the app is the revamped icon which now looks like a dropped locator pin (left) in the traditional Google colour scheme of red, blue, yellow, and green.

But it’s the new layout, which features five tabs across the lower screen – Explore, Commute, Saved, Contribute, and Updates – that will change the way you travel.

Whether you’re exploring an unfamiliar city like New York, London or Tokyo, or just rushing to catch the bus on your daily commute, the simple redesign puts the world at your fingertips.

After the success of its “crowdedness predictions” (to help users see how crowded their bus or train was likely to be), Google Maps is now going a step further.

In various parts of the world you’ll be able to check the temperature in your scheduled train or bus in advance, and no doubt dress accordingly.

And thanks to data from previous travellers, you’ll know whether there’s wheelchair access, LED lighting or security staff onboard.

There are also useful regional upgrades to help you navigate the daily commute in various big countries.

Starting next month, commuters in Japan will be able to find out how many carriages there are on a specific route, and whether there’s a female-only carriage (Japan and India).

In Singapore, the Lion City’s famed hawker food centres have also been mapped for the first time, with 360 degree street views, directions, opening hours and reviews of the 114 centres.

The Five Tabs 



The Explore tab will give you information, ratings and reviews for about 200 million places worldwide, including restaurants, attractions and popular landmarks.


Here you can get crucial information for your trip whether you are travelling by car, public transport, on foot or by bike. Crowdsourced data will tell you how crowded the train or bus is, what the temperature is likely to be in a train or bus or whether there’s a women’s-only train carriage.

Google GIF


Your favourite saved restaurants and locations were once hidden in the navigation menu in the upper left-hand corner. You’ll now find them at the bottom of the app. According to Google, people have saved more than 6.5 billion places on Google Maps.


The Contribute tab, previously named “Your Contributions”, lets you share reviews and photos of interesting places you’ve visited.


This new tab is a bit like the older “For You” tab. It provides users with a feed of trending businesses from local experts and publishers.

 Pointing You In The Right Direction 


Google has improved its augmented reality (AR) walking app, known as Live View, with new overlays that combine street images with arrows that point you in the right direction when you’re in an unfamiliar location.

You can hold your phone up next to streets to see arrows and directions overlaid on top of the camera view to make it far easier to locate buildings and your destination.

Live View was launched as a beta test last year but will make it to most devices with the latest update. To experience motion tracking, your mobile device must support ARCore (Android) and ARKit (iPhone – iOS 11 or later).

Live View activates as soon as you start moving on a walking route, with Google Maps open.

Google Maps – Tricks and Tips 

# Translations: Tap the speaker icon that appears next to an address or place name, Google Maps will speak out loud in the local language.

# Verbal Directions: Tap the speaker icon in the search bar and ask Google to show directions to a major landmark, restaurant or other location.

# Privacy: Choose Incognito Mode and Google won’t save your searches. This is important, as Google Maps keeps a very detailed record of everywhere you go every day in its “Timeline”, unless you delete it. You can set it up so Google Maps automatically deletes this location data every three months.

# Avoid highways or tolls: In navigation mode, tap the three dots at the top right of the app and look for “Route options” to choose the route types you want to avoid.

Google Maps

© 2020 Bernard O’Riordan (Travel Instinct). All Rights Reserved. 

Travel Instinct

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