Illustration: Alex Castro / The Verge
Google is continuing to build more helpful new features into Google Maps to assist people trying to navigate around cities that have begun emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. When you look for public transit directions, you’ll now see “relevant alerts” from transit agencies about mandatory precautions you’ll need to take — such as wearing a face covering. And if a public transit line is temporarily suspended due to the ongoing COVID-19 response, you’ll hopefully get a heads-up about that, too.
Maps is making it easier to see how crowded a train station usually is, but since that historical data might not necessarily apply right now, you’ve still got the option of viewing live data for “crowdedness.”
“Simply search for a station in Google Maps or tap on the station on the map to see the departure board and busyness data, where available,” Maps product director Ramesh Nagarajan wrote in a blog post. Google Maps pulls this anonymized information from people who have enabled location history on their Google account. The company notes this setting is off by default, but Google’s apps make a habit of encouraging you to turn it on for the best experience.
Additional alerts are also coming to driving mode, which will “notify you about COVID-19 checkpoints and restrictions along your route, like when crossing national borders (starting first in Canada, Mexico, and the US).” Google will show these alerts on the main directions screen and also after navigation has started if your route will be impacted.
And lastly, when you enter a medical facility or COVID-19 testing center as your destination, Google Maps will nudge you to do a bit of quick research to make sure you won’t be turned away once you get there. “An appointment may be required for COVID-19 testing here,” is one example of this alert, which will roll out beginning this week for medical facilities in Indonesia, Israel, the Philippines, South Korea, and the US.
Back in March, Google Maps began encouraging users to call their doctors if they were experiencing novel coronavirus symptoms before going to hospitals and other sites. This came during the surge of COVID-19 cases worldwide, when some health facilities were getting overwhelmed. Google has also put greater emphasis on takeout and delivery food options in the app while many restaurants remain closed to dine-in customers.