Google Maps is more than just a virtual map that tells us where to go. Reserve or order food in a restaurant: Google Maps has long been able to do more than just navigate. But the data power of the internet company cannot always be relied on.
A handcart with 99 smartphones, each with an open Google Maps app and activated location data. The artist Simon Weckert did not need any more to trick the map application.
At the beginning of the year he had a colleague stroll through some of Berlin’s streets in a cart to fake traffic jams. They actually appeared as red lines live in Google Maps, even though there was hardly a car on the streets.
Google Maps offers more than just Navigation
“We no longer have an inner card, we trust apps quite a lot,” says Weckert, formulating the criticism behind his art campaign. In fact, most of them use the map service, including navigation, for granted. Often they are not even aware of all of the other functions that the software offers. Here are some that come in handy in everyday life:
- Observe the spread of corona: Google Maps has integrated a new function with which the infection rate of Covid-19 can be checked in different regions of the world. The new cases per 100,000 inhabitants are shown here, determined in the past seven days. Users reach the display via the level symbol, which they can also use to switch to the satellite view. You will now find the item “Covid-19-Info” here. If you now reduce the size of the map, the corresponding infection rate pops up on it.
- Book a taxi: If you are looking for the fastest route to your destination on Google Maps, you will see that taxi apps are integrated in addition to public transport. You can even find e-scooters.
Book a taxi
- Order food or reserve tables in the restaurant: restaurants have always been listed in Google Maps. You can now order food and have it delivered. In some restaurants you can even reserve tables directly. Then a corresponding button appears when you click on the restaurant.
- Observe the occupancy of shops: For those who want to avoid the rush of customers in shops, the display of the occupancy in the shops is particularly suitable. In addition to the opening times, it also shows the times during the day when the shops are particularly busy. However, these are projections that Google has obtained based on the Android users who have shopped there over time. The data cannot always be transferred one-to-one.
- Finding your destination is usually very reliable with Google Maps. But where to park? Here, too, the service promises a remedy. If you search for “parking space” on the map, you will find a selection in the area, for example in parking garages. Including information on how full the parking space is likely to be.
- Plan routes on the computer: The desktop version of Google Maps often offers even more functions than the app. And above all: more overview and convenience. Routes can easily be planned on the PC and then sent to the smartphone. It is also possible to create your own maps using the desktop version.
- Find bike paths and measure altitude: cyclists also have a better overview in the desktop version. A click on “Bicycle” in the menu shows all cycle paths. Maps suggests a bike route after entering a destination. The service also shows the elevation profile of the route there.
- Navigating without internet or GPS: The route has been selected, you want to start running, but the GPS signal is weak or missing. This is where the augmented reality function helps, which then shows the route from the user’s point of view on the display. Shops and house fronts, for example, serve as orientation. If you are traveling abroad or want to save mobile data, you can also download important maps to your smartphone and use them offline.
But Google also collects Data
Google Maps users get a huge range of functions, but also leave countless data to the service. If you want to restrict this, you can switch to the so-called incognito mode and switch off location sharing. However, some functions can then no longer be used – or at least no longer as conveniently.