Google today revealed Google Maps updates aimed at warning users of pandemic-related threats. Soon, maps will display all-time COVID-19 cases identified in an area, along with fast links from local authorities to resources. Google will also start to demonstrate how bus, train, and subway lines are crowded in more locations across the globe. Maps also now show the live status of takeout and delivery orders, as well as reservations, in supported nations. And Maps has a new driving mode in the United States that brings Google Assistant front and center. 

Since the start of the pandemic, Google claims it has added almost 250 features and upgrades to Maps, including live busyness data for millions of locations. Every day, over 50 million changes are made to the map, drawing on data from, according to the company, more than 10,000 local governments, transit agencies and organizations. For over 20 million locations worldwide, these include “famous times” information.

Maps users in the US, Canada, Germany, Australia, Brazil and India will soon see food order information, including when to pick up orders, when to expect deliveries to arrive, estimated wait times and delivery fees, and reorder shortcuts, beyond the enhanced COVID-19 map layer on Android and iOS and public transit crowdedness details. In 70 countries around the world, maps will also display the status of reservations.

In reality, Maps is acquiring a specifically tailored framework for hands-free driving. Google is today offering an early version of the experience on Android in English in the U.S. after previewing this new Google Assistant driving mode in Maps in early 2020. Users can leverage voice to send and receive calls and texts with Google Assistant driving mode in Maps, review new messages through applications, and get a text read-out. The assistant will alert them to incoming calls so that they can reply with their voice or decline. Media playback commands for “hundreds” of providers, including YouTube Music, Spotify, Google Podcasts and more, will also be responded to.

Start navigating to a destination with Maps to get started with Google Assistant driving mode, and tap the pop-up. Alternatively, on an Android phone, go to Assistant settings or say, ‘Hey Google, open Assistant settings,’ then choose ‘Getting around,’ choose ‘Driving mode,’ and switch it on.

“Without ever leaving the navigation screen, driving mode makes all this possible, so you can minimize distractions on the lane,” Maps VP Dane Glasgow wrote in a blog post. We depend on 170 billion high-definition Street View images from 87 countries, contributions from hundreds of millions of companies and people using Google Maps to ensure that knowledge is as accurate and up-to-date as possible… We also invest in technological approaches that power some of our most beloved and important features, from the 20 million places globally that now display famous times

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