Google Maps releases COVID-19 travel alerts for commuters

By William Smith
As some countries ease lockdown restrictions and allow select workers to travel to their jobs, Google Maps has announced the integration of travel alert...

As some countries ease lockdown restrictions and allow select workers to travel to their jobs, Google Maps has announced the integration of travel alerts.

Targeted at essential workers, Google said the feature could allow them to know important information such as at what times a train station might be crowded or whether a bus was running on a limited schedule.

Partnering with local transit agencies, Google’s app shows relevant alerts on planned trips, such as whether a mask is mandatory on public transport.

For drivers, Google is implementing notifications about potential COVID-19 checkpoints, such as those at national borders.

In a blog post, Ramesh Nagarajan, Google Maps’ Product Management Director, said: To ensure proper social distancing, commuters are paying attention to how crowded or comfortable their ride and transit station will be. Starting today, you can easily see the times when a transit station is historically more or less busy to plan your trip accordingly or you can look at live data showing how busy it is right now compared to its usual level of activity. 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.

“Rolling out over the next several weeks, these capabilities are powered by aggregated and anonymized data from users who have opted in to Google Location History, a Google account-level setting that is off by default. To protect privacy, these insights are only surfaced when we have sufficient data to meet privacy thresholds.”

The company said the alerts were rolling out in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, France, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the US, with more “coming soon”.

The move continues a trend starting before the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with Google introducing crowdedness predictions last year, and more recently implementing accessibility insights.

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