I love these types of articles – finding unexpected uses of technology to connect closer with family and friends. What I think really sells this application of Google Maps is that these are pictures of people in the middle of their everyday lives – they’re not posed, or idealized.
Quite a few news outlets are reporting a mistake in Google Maps that led to cars being stuck on a muddy road.
Apparently, the highway to Denver International Airport was backed up so Google Maps suggested a detour route – unfortunately this detour route was a dirt road that became mud after earlier rainstorms. A number of cars were stuck in the deep mud and had to be pulled out. See the video at this CNN article: https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/26/us/google-maps-detour-colorado-trnd/index.html .
It’s fun to blame Maps for incidents such as this, but it underlines how important it is to review maps and confirm where the route takes you. It would have been easy to pop open Google Maps Satellite View and quickly thumb through the overhead view to see where the detour took you – if you see a poorly maintained road, or any other warning signs, it’s definitely a good idea to avoid.
When I travel, I always have Google Maps save a map of the area I’m travelling to. It’s not always possible to have a working cell signal – in flat Illinois where I live, it’s easy to have cell signal all the time. When I travel to more mountainous regions such as Colorado, I often lose signal due to mountains and hills between me and the signal tower.
I love poking around Google Maps – there are so many unexpected things you can find that are obvious from a top-down view, but are so hard to see at a ground-level view.
I was looking at a Google Maps of the Epcot theme park in Disney World, Florida. Do you see any interesting shape in the screenshot below?
There’s a hidden Mickey in the top left hand corner! The three black circles are arranged into the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head! See the screenshot below for detail:
If you zoom in enough on Google Maps, you’ll notice that this is actually an array of solar panels, generating electricity to feed the Disney theme parks. Notice that there seems to be a dirt access road to the panels and a fence around the entire array. As I said before: this solar panel array would be difficult to see in person, much less the general shape of it; but with Google Maps, the difficult becomes so obvious!
Need to book a hotel room, but you’re looking for a good deal? Google Maps has you covered. This post is if you already have a particular hotel picked out.
As an example, I’m going to pick the Contemporary Resort in Orlando, Florida. First, go to Google Maps and type in contemporary resort. Select the Contemporary located in Orlando, FL.
After searching, you’ll see a screen similar to the below:
On the left hand side, there are advertisements (note the small Ad disclaimer in the middle of the screen) where Expedia and other trip planning sites offer deals for the hotel. You can comparison shop between providers – KAYAK is offering rooms for $492, but Expedia is offering for $488 (see purple arrow). The dates of the hotel stay can be changed as well, see the red arrow for the date pickers.
Keep your eye out for similar ads and deals in Google Maps – I frequently see travel deals being offered.
This is just the start of beefing up Maps’ ability to predict traffic levels – I expect Google will be collecting much more information about public transportation, and use that data to power its AI. In the future I could see Google Home offering route planning comparisons between an Uber or train: including informed predictions about how long each will take, how crowded the train will be, etc.
It’s a nice commentary about the business and consumer sides of Google Maps. On the personal/consumer side, Google is adding more advertisements when people search for an address – for example, asking if you want delivery via DoorDash if you search for a restaurant. There are also “promoted pins” which are map pins that appear showing an advertiser’s location, even if the advertiser isn’t relevant to the search. On the business side, Google recently increased the cost of using Google Maps embedded into a website/app/mobile app.
I predict we’ll see more ads and more monetization of the Maps service. Google needs to diversify its revenue – most of it currently comes from ads – and Maps is a great source of data. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Google expanding the Google Local service, encouraging more business reviews from customers so they have more local data to display along with Maps.
For those of you who need a little help with Google Maps, Google offers a screen with all the keyboard shortcuts available in Maps. Just open up Maps, click anywhere in the map area, then hold down the [Shift] and [?] keys – you’ll get the screen below: