Google announced on Monday 8 June that it would start to show alerts about important COVID-19 travel-related information in the apps “to help you prepare accordingly if government mandates impact transit services.
“When you look up public transit directions for a trip that is likely to be affected by COVID-19 restrictions, we’ll show relevant alerts from local transit agencies”.
Covid-19 Alerts In Google Maps
According to Google, transit alerts are rolling out in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, France, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom and the US, “with more coming soon”.
Google will also be rolling out driving alerts to notify commuters about COVID-19 checkpoints and restrictions along your route; when crossing borders, for example. Google will also display an alert reminding you to verify eligibility and facility guidelines before heading out to a medical facility, “to avoid being turned away or causing additional strain on the local healthcare system”.
Medical facility-related alerts were rolled out in Indonesia, Israel, the Philippines, South Korea, and the US today. However, the service will be introduced in other countries in due course. The Google Maps already has crowdedness predictions for public transit routes, which is powered by “tens of millions of contributions from past riders”.
“These predictions help people see how crowded a particular bus line or train tends to be. We’re now making it simpler for people to contribute crowdedness information for their transit lines”.
This is especially useful in these strange times of lockdowns, isolation and social distancing. Product Management Director for Google Maps, Ramesh Nagarajan, explains: “To ensure proper social distancing, commuters are paying attention to how crowded or comfortable their ride and transit station will be.
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”.
Once the feature is available in South Africa, you’d be able to search for a station in Google Maps. Tapping on the marker will show the departure board and busyness data, if available. According to Nagarajan, these “capabilities are powered by aggregated and anonymised data from users who have opted into Google Location History.
It’s a Google account-level setting which is set to off default. Google added that to protect privacy, these insights are only surfaced when they have sufficient data to meet privacy thresholds.