Google has spent plenty of time this year updating its products to be more useful during the pandemic, and some of it's freshly announced Maps features serve that same purpose. Improvements to the COVID layer and live information about how busy buses and trains are will help to keep us safe when out and about, and the much-anticipated Driving Mode is finally arriving in preview.
About two years ago, Google added sidebars to its web apps, enhancing its services with miniature versions of Calendar, Tasks, or Keep, and you can even integrate third-party applets. For the first time in ages, a web app has now received a new standard integration — you can now access an almost full-blown version of Maps right inside Google Calendar.
Google already has an in-car navigation UI in the form of Android Auto, as well as a future replacement in the form of the Assistant Driving Mode, but it seems to be implementing a very similar concept in Google Maps. We've seen music playback controls show up in Maps navigation before, but never the Android Auto-style buttons and home screen.
Google has been teasing a dark theme for Maps for a year now, and after some code surfaced that pointed to traces of a dark mode in version 10.50 of the app, we've now got our first look at a proper, finished night-compatible theme in version 10.51.1. It's currently rolling out as a limited server-side update to a few people only.
Google has been placing COVID-19 reminders, warnings, and information in many of its services for some time now. You can't use a Google service without being reminded to wear a mask, or of where to go for screening. It's even added various tips to Maps, including where to get takeout during the pandemic. With a possible new overlay feature, it looks like we might soon be able to add Google Maps to our list of COVID tracing apps.
Google has been teasing and working on a dark theme for Maps for well over a year, but it's yet to come to full fruition. It looks like that's about to change, as app sleuth Alessandro Paluzzi and 9to5Google have found evidence that Google might be close to release dark mode to the public.
Earlier this summer, Google Maps started displaying traffic lights for some users. Although that appeared to be an experimental feature, as none of us at AndroidPolice could get them to show up, they're finally rolling out widely.
Google will usually adjust its Maps speed limit support for a handful of countries every so often. Last we saw, Google had upgraded it in nine regions, but downgraded it in nine others. This time around, many more regions are involved — 18 regions, including the US, have had their speed limit coverage improved, but a whopping 100 others have had theirs worsened.
This story was originally published and last updated .
We've taken a look at open source alternatives to Gmail and Google Calendar, but those are digital lifestyle staples that don't require a whole lot of smarts to work. What about something more complex and data driven, like mapping? Believe it or not, there are open source alternatives to Google Maps out there.
I won't make you wait for the big "but" here, though: none of these solutions offer the same feature set you get with Google Maps. As sad as it is, Google's advanced traffic detection and point-of-interest data are only possible when you have an install base counting in the billions.
GPS has made it possible to always know where you are. Actually, scratch that—not always. GPS can be flaky in dense urban areas, but Google has a solution. The Live View AR feature from walking navigation is now available as an option to calibrate your location and orientation. The option is a bit hidden, though.