ADVERTISING BROKER Google has updated its Google Maps application to provide directions on public transport.
Google Maps 5.7 for Android will provide users with 'stop-by-stop' instructions based on GPS with support in large parts of the UK, including East Anglia, the east Midlands, London, Scotland and the rather vague southeast UK. Much like turn-by-turn navigation, Google's Transit Navigation will inform the user when he or she needs to hop off the bus.
The poor souls who have to use London's Underground will quickly see an issue, something that Google itself acknowledges. As the system relies on GPS, it won't work underground. Google said, "we recommend using this feature for above-ground transit". That means that for many the system will only be useful when using buses.
Google has also made it easier to get directions from its Google Maps service rather than having to go through its Navigation application. And as this is Google, it also made a couple of changes to its Maps search, providing categories so suggested results will have an icon to infer the type of result that is being returned.
Google's Maps application provided transit information including tram and bus locations in cities such as San Francisco as far back as 2009. Google suggests its transit navigation will be useful for tourists who might not speak the local language, which is a fair and valid point. But tourists will need to have data roaming enabled get the map data online while traveling.
That said, Google has made it possible to avoid roaming charges if you decide to pre-load the maps onto your Android device. A new Google Labs feature, Download Map Area allows users to download all map data within an user-defined area, ensuring users can still navigate even if they don't have a data connection. This addresses one of the fundamental weaknesses of Google Maps and will make it a viable option for more users.
Aside from data roaming charges for live updates, which admittedly are unavoidable for such a service, Google deserves credit for supporting over 400 cities with its Transit Navigation beta. It might mean that Londoners won't have to spend half of their commuting time helping hapless tourists. µ