Google Maps adds new alerts about COVID-19 travel restrictions

SAN FRANCISCO: Google is adding features on its Maps service to alert users about COVID-19-related travel restrictions to help them navigate around cities emerging from the pandemic.
The update would provide “relevant alerts” and mandatory precautions allowing users plan their trips better and to check how crowded a train station might be at a particular time or if buses on a certain route are running on a limited schedule, Google said.
“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 provides this 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 encourage uses to turn it on for the best experience.
The alerts would be rolled out in Argentina, France, India, Netherlands, the United States and United Kingdom among other countries.
The new features would also include details on COVID-19 checkpoints and restrictions on crossing national borders, starting with Canada, Mexico and the United States. Google will show these alerts on the main directions screen and also after navigation has started if the route will be impacted.
In recent months, Google has analysed location data from billions of users’ phones in 131 countries to examine mobility under lockdowns and help health authorities assess if people were abiding with social distancing and other orders issued to control the virus.
Google has invested billions of dollars from its search ads business to digitally map the world, drawing 1 billion users on average every month to its free navigation app.
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