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Do you remember what life was like before Google Maps?

by Glenn Cowan

Depending on the sort of driver you are you might have had a Garmin or other portable navigation unit. Sadly these nearly always struggled to keep up to date with the sheer volumes of new routes that have cropped up, not to mention live traffic situations.

Personally, having owned a Garmin, I always found it quite a task to pin-point the exact destination. It seems to make no real difference whether you are using English or Thai language. So I for one was really grateful when Google put more of their resource into improving an already good mapping system.

Recently we have seen a huge growth in larger mobile phones and tablets, making it easier to read things like maps while on the go. This has undoubtedly spurred Google on to introduce a whole load of updates to its routing software.If you haven’t made the switch over to Google Maps then here are just a few of it’s latest innovations.

There is Congestion Ahead!

No one likes congestion (obvious statement!), but it’s part and parcel of getting from A to B.

Picture the scene. You are travelling to a destination you haven’t been to before and all of a sudden the traffic starts to back-up. This could be a real issue, especially if you are under some form of time constraint.

Do you carry on and hope that the traffic starts to ease? Or do you look to find an alternative route? Decisions, decisions…..

Driving under stress isn’t good for anyone, even more so when in Thailand. There are way too many other (lunatic) drivers to be aware of.

However, Google has developed a way of keeping you updated and will even tell you in advance to expect delays. What’s more, the navigation system will estimate how long the delay is likely to be for and that you are still on the fastest route (obviously assuming that you are), if not it will advise of different action to take.

The technology behind this innovation is that Google is now able to harness the power of other users. For example, it knows how long it should take an average to drive a certain distance; however, reading data from other users further ahead it knows if the traffic starts to slow down.In short, the more people that use Google Maps, the more reliable the service becomes.

Seeing Traffic Patterns

Another great feature is the recent introduction of “traffic patterns”. If you are someone that makes a regular journey then this really will be up your street (pun intended!)

You can probably imagine what it would be like to avoid traffic, either by leaving a little earlier or later? Well the Google Maps desktop site is where you can check. You enter your route and change the default icon from “live traffic” to “typical traffic”.

All that’s left to do is to adjust the slider to the time of the day and you will see exactly what traffic normally looks like at that time of day!

Popular Times

Google has even been working on ways to improve your experience while visiting different locations.A great example of this is by integrating “popular times” for restaurants.

As well as gaining information on opening times, reviews, website info and contact details, the app now has the ability to display the busiest times in a chart. In practice this works out to be a very handy way of avoiding peak times, great if you are not a big fan of queueing up!

In the example below for the Glass House in Pattaya you can see that on a Thursday they are busiest around 7pm. This useful information might well assist in planning a family meal out.

Driving Mode!

Another quite brilliant feature that the big G has added in recent times is called “driving mode”.

Currently it is only available via Android; however, Google are saying that it should roll out to Apple in the near future. Here’s the low-down on how it works.

Google has the ability to predict where you are going, before you even ask for directions! Sounds a little creepy? Well, for some people it might be…. but in a nutshell it can be used without even putting Google Maps into navigation mode and will provide plenty of useful information as you drive.

No Data Connection, No Worries

One of the great challenges and bugbears for many people is that in the past a constant data connection would be needed to use Google Maps. Again, things have changed for the better with regards to this.

The user can simply download all of the map data that you need to navigate in the region that you are travelling and make use of this when in “offline mode”. The brilliant thing here is that all of the POI’s, fuel stations, shops etc are included.2000px-Wifi.svg.png

Using this feature couldn’t be easier too. Simply perform a search based on an address or town / city, then open the menu at the bottom of the app. Tap the download button, scale the map so that the full area that you are looking for is shown on the screen, tap download again, give it a name and then hit the save button. Bingo, offline map created for later use.

Sending Directions to Your Phone

Given that a large number of people research a trip on their desktop or laptop, Google has made it super easy for users to send this info to a smartphone. Simply create the route on your desktop / laptop and use the “Send to Your Phone” option - easy as pie!

If you haven’t checked out the latest updates to Google Maps then perhaps now’s the right time? Be sure to let us know at Pattaya Trader which is your favorite feature!