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Google Maps just got a big upgrade — and it will make your life easier

(Image credit: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

A long-awaited update to Google Maps finally appears to be reaching users now. First spotted by some users earlier this summer, Google Maps now identifies intersections with traffic lights in certain cities, offering a useful bit of extra information when in transit.

This change was actually noticed as far back as July by Droid Life, but as usual with Google's app updates, this one rolled out server side, so users have been receiving it at different times. Google posted an update to its Keyword blog in mid-August that talked up various additions to the Maps experience, but mysteriously left this one out.

Traffic signal icons are live in Google Maps in New York, Seattle and Atlanta, among other cities.

Traffic signal icons are live in Google Maps in New York, Seattle and Atlanta, among other cities. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The icons themselves are fairly straightforward and bare bones. They don't animate, for example, so it's not like you can tell what a signal is going to be before you get to it. Additionally, you have to zoom into the map quite close to even see them in the first place.

As it turns out, there's nothing you really need to do to see the traffic signals, except pinch to zoom in. As Android Police notes, the icons aren't housed in the traffic layer, so they should be visible at all times alongside street names and place data, whether you're using navigation or simply browsing.

It's worth noting that Apple Maps has been doing this for quite a while, and up until now, it stood as one of Apple's few advantages over Google's more information- and feature-rich platform that has obviously been around much longer. Polling our own Android devices, we can see that many of them are showing traffic signals, so this feature would seem to be widely available now.

In terms of other updates, in August, Google shared that Maps now delineates sidewalks, pedestrian islands and crosswalks. London, New York and San Francisco were identified as the first cities of focus for these features, and they'll roll out to others in due time.