Google Maps just got a big upgrade — what you need to know

Google Maps
(Image credit: BigTunaOnline/Shutterstock)

It’s hard to imagine a time when we didn’t have instant access to Google Maps when getting around, but it’s easy to forget that it isn’t perfect. Which is why we’re looking forward to this latest update.

Google Maps now offers a lot more street details to better represent how streets look in real life and makes it easier for you to get around. The downside is that it’s currently only available in four places: New York, San Francisco, Central London, and Central Tokyo.

These features were first announced last year, with some details making their way to the Google Maps Beta at the start of December. Back then the details only included smaller things like crosswalks and traffic lights, whereas today Google has added a lot more useful things like roadside vegetation, more accurate road shapes, pedestrian islands, and other smaller features.

But the benefits don’t end with simple visual cues, because these features also come with added accessibility information. Wheelchair and stroller access are marked on maps as well, as are obstacles like stairs.

In other words, for a pedestrian navigating these four cities, whatever your circumstances, you now have a lot more useful information to help you get around easily and efficiently.

google maps beta

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

It’s worth mentioning that not all these details are universally available right now. London and Tokyo don’t show any traffic lights, for example. No doubt this is down to Google not having enough information at the time of writing, similar to how the whole update is restricted to a small handful of cities.

The update relies on Google collecting enough relevant information from each city. So the sheer size of them means you can’t expect these details to be made available everywhere at the same time.

But if you do find yourself in these four cities, this is all going to be incredibly useful stuff to have on your phone screen. The more you know about your surroundings, the less stressful you’re going to find navigating an area you’re completely unfamiliar with.

The best part is this is a server-side update, which means you don’t have to do anything. Simply load up whatever version of Google Maps you want to use and everything news will be there already.

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.