Google Maps releases new features to help people navigate coronavirus hot spots

Author: Alaa Elassar / CNN
Published: Updated:
This illustration picture shows Google map application displaying medical facility or a COVID-19 testing center on a smartphone in Arlington, Virginia on June 9, 2020. – A new version of Google’s mapping service being rolled out will display pandemic-related transit alerts and let people know when buses or trains might be crowded. Updated versions of the free app for smartphones powered by Apple or Google-backed Android software will also let drivers know about COVID-19 checkpoints or restrictions on their routes. “We’re introducing features to help you easily find important information if you need to venture out, whether it’s by car or public transportation,” Google Maps product management director Ramesh Nagarajan said in a blog post detailing updates. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

Google Maps has launched new features to help users safely get around during the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 11 million people worldwide have contracted the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University, and 500,000 have died.

Countries and regions have implemented varying restrictions, depending on the severity of their outbreaks, and that has complicated travel.

“COVID-19 has certainly impacted the way that we move around in the world,” Google Maps product management director Ramesh Nagarajan said in a news release in June.

“As cities and countries across the globe adapt, we’re committed to bringing the most pertinent information right to your fingertips. So when you’re ready and able to, you can safely venture out,” Nagarajan said.

To assist travelers, Google Maps is collecting data from local and national agencies and governments and alerting users to pertinent information.

Here’s what users can expect:

Restriction alerts

Google Maps users will receive driving alerts to notify them of Covid-19 checkpoints when crossing national borders, as well as varying restrictions along their routes.

Drivers will see the alert on the directions screen if they are entering an area impacted by certain restrictions, such as a mask mandate or social distancing regulations.

Checkpoint and restriction alerts are currently available in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

Testing alerts

When someone is driving to a medical facility or coronavirus testing center, they will receive alerts reminding them of eligibility and facility guidelines, “to avoid being turned away or causing additional strain on the local healthcare system,” Nagarajan said.

Alerts for medical facilities are available in Indonesia, Israel, the Philippines, South Korea and US. Testing center alerts are available in the US.

Public transit alerts

When using Google Maps to navigate public transportation in an area affected by Covid-19 restrictions, travelers will receive alerts from local transit agencies with reminders of regulations, like mask requirements or if government mandates are impacting transit services.

Transit alerts are rolling out in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, France, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the US.

In 2019 Google Maps introduced crowdedness predictions for public transit using millions of contributions from riders to show people how crowded bus lines or trains are. Now it’s easier for people to submit their own crowdedness experience and check out how busy a train or bus they are about to take tends to be.

This will help commuters practice social distancing by avoiding crowded rides and planning their trip around times that aren’t as busy.

Some features are not yet available in every country.

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