Google Adds Covid-19 Travel Alerts To Maps

Google has added Covid-19 advice to its Google Maps mobile app in order to help travellers get information on how the pandemic may affect users’ journeys.

The new features arrive as countries are beginning to ease lockdowns, even as they keep many restrictions in place.

The advice includes how crowded public transportation might be or whether it is running on a full or limited schedule.

The features are built into new releases of Google Maps for Android and iOS.

Image credit: Google

Travel alerts

When users look up public transit directions for journeys likely to be affected by restrictions, the app displays relevant government alerts such as the requirement – as in the UK – to wear a face covering.

The alerts are being made available in a range of countries, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, France, the Netherlands, Thailand, the UK and the US, with more planned.

Driving alerts will now include Covid-19 checkpoints and restrictions along the route, such as restrictions on crossing national borders, beginning with those in North America.

If a user is navigating to a medical facility or Covid-19 testing centre, they will be reminded of eligibility and facility guidelines in order to avoid their being turned away or putting an unneeded strain on the local healthcare system.

Medical facility guidelines are to be made available this week in Indonesia, Israel, the Philippines, South Korea, and the US, with testing centre alerts in the US.

Google said it is “actively working” with agencies around the world to bring in more official alert data.

Image credit: Google

Crowd density

The company began adding predictions for how crowded public transportation is likely to be last year, and has now added predictions on how busy a station is likely to be, based on historical data.

Users can also access live data showing how busy a station is at the time, compared to its usual level of activity, by tapping on the station on the map.

The information is meant to help users adhere to social distancing guidelines while travelling.

Google said the information is based on aggregated and anonymised data from users who have opted into Google Location History, an account-level setting that is switched off by default.

“To protect privacy, these insights are only surfaced when we have sufficient data to meet privacy threshold,” Google said in a blog post.

During the pandemic Google has supplied location data analyses from billions of Android users’ phones in 131 countries to help health authorities assess the impact of social-distancing and other orders.

The company has also worked with Apple to develop a Covid-19 contact tracing framework that functions across Android and iOS devices.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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