Google Maps launches COVID-19 checkpoint alerts

Google has rolled out several new features for its Maps navigation app for Android and iOS which aim to make it easier and safer for people to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first feature is intended to assist public transport users with information on transit measures.

When users look up public transit directions for a trip that is likely to be affected by COVID-19 restrictions, Google Maps will display relevant alerts from local transit agencies.

“These alerts can help you prepare accordingly if government mandates impact transit services or require you to wear a mask on public transportation,” Google explained.

Transit alerts will initially be rolled out in countries where Google has information from local transit agencies – including Argentina, Australia, Belgium, France, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom, and the U.S.

Google added these alerts will soon be coming to more countries.

Alerts for drivers

Drivers who use Google Maps will benefit from alerts about COVID-19 checkpoints and possible travel restrictions along their route.

The alerts will be displayed on the directions screen and after starting navigation if the route is impacted by these restrictions.

These notifications will first be available in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.

In addition, when navigating to medical facilities or COVID-19 testing centres, Maps will display an alert reminding users to verify eligibility and facility guidelines to avoid being turned away or causing additional strain on the local healthcare system.

From this week, alerts for medical facilities will be available in Indonesia, Israel, the Philippines, South Korea, and the U.S., and testing centre alerts will be available in the US.

“We’re showing these alerts where we’ve received authoritative data from local, state and federal governments or from their websites, and are actively working with other agencies around the world to bring even more of this helpful data to users in Google Maps,” Google said.

Avoiding crowds

The company said it has also improved its crowdedness predictions feature, which helps public transport users see how crowded a particular bus line or train tends to be.

This could be useful in avoiding highly-congested hubs or routes which may be hotspots for COVID-19 transmission.

“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,” Google said.

To check crowdedness, 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.

Google sources this information from aggregated and anonymised data from users who opt into Google Location History.

Contributing crowdedness information on transit lines is now simpler, Google stated.

“Look up Directions, tap through to see the Transit Details, then scroll down to find crowdedness predictions (where available) and easily contribute your own experiences,” Google said.

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Google Maps launches COVID-19 checkpoint alerts