A few months ago, Apple and Google confirmed a collaboration with the government and public health officials to develop a contract tracing platform for the 2019 novel coronavirus. The goal is to alert users if they are within proximity of somebody who is potentially infected or was exposed to someone else who is. Many praised the initiative as an example of how technology can be used to aid in the fight against COVID-19. Now, Google Maps has been updated to benefit public transport amid the health crisis.
Unlike before, when the pandemic was still in its early stages, public transportation still followed a regular schedule. However, in line with precautionary measures issued by authorities, commuters now have to contend with some limitations. The latest update to Google Maps now keeps users updated regarding COVID-19-related warnings to hopefully ensure safety and prevent new transmissions of SARS-CoV-2.
As more countries gradually lift their respective travel restrictions, those who rely on various forms of mass transit are still at risk. With guidelines regarding social distancing being enforced, the number of passengers will be limited in most cases. When a user searches for directions, under "relevant alerts," information such as mandatory precautions and if there are any schedule changes will be included.
For those who usually take the train, Google adds the option to check for live data to see how crowded the station might be. Maps product director Ramesh Nagarajan wrote in a blog post: "Simply search for a station in Google Maps or tap on the station on the map to see the departure board and busyness data, where available."
The system apparently uses the data anonymously sourced from people who enabled location tracking and location history on their Google accounts. The developers assure the public that by default, this option is disabled and should be manually toggled to activate. As such, for the sake of providing a better service, it is encouraging people to turn it on.
In addition to the updates for public transportation, Google Maps also tweaked the driving mode that notifies users if there are restrictions or checkpoints along their route. Moreover, if the destination is set to a COVID-19 testing centre or medical establishment, it will indicate if an appointment is required or not.