Google Maps has launched a new feature aimed at making people feel safe as they navigate public transport around the world.
The app has expanded its “transit crowdedness predictions” to more than 10,000 transit agencies in 100 countries, so users will be able to find out ahead of time if their chosen bus, train or subway is likely to have lots of free seats, has hit full capacity, or is somewhere in between.
With this information, pubic transport users can decide whether they want to hop on board or wait a while. “Because, pandemic or not, no one likes standing in a jam-packed subway car,” says Google.
It’s a handy tool for people who are returning to work and keen to avoid a crowded commute in the midst of the pandemic, but will also be a boon for those who have begun travelling again and are trying to navigate foreign cities as safely as possible.
These predictions are made possible using artificial intelligence, contributions from people using Google Maps, and historical location trends that predict future crowdedness levels for transit lines all over the world.
In New York and Sydney, Google Maps is taking things one step further, with a pilot that shows live crowdedness information in specific train carriages. This feature is powered by data from agencies like Long Island Rail Road and Transport for New South Wales, with more cities coming soon.
These services are part of a raft of new features that have been introduced by Google Maps in response to the pandemic. Also new is a Timeline Insights tab that provides monthly trend information about how users are navigating the world, with details on which modes of transportation they've used and the distance and time spent driving, flying, biking or walking. Users can also see how much time they're spending at different places – whether shops, airports or restaurants.
"After living through a global pandemic, people have told us that they want to be more intentional about how they spend their time," says Google.