Google Maps just got a big Bluetooth upgrade — why that's good for you

An Android phone running google maps - representing how to disable location tracking on Android
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

One of the biggest issues when using any navigational software, including Google Maps, in a car is tunnels as they are known to affect navigational accuracy. However, it seems that Google has found a way to solve this problem, at least on the best Android phones

There is little doubt that Google Maps is one of the best navigational apps on the market. The program is easy to use and works seamlessly with Android Auto. It appears that Google wants to improve on this even more with the inclusion of Bluetooth beacons to aid with tunnel navigation, as reported by SmartDroid.

Tunnels have long been a problem for GPS-based navigation systems, due to the signals being unable to penetrate the outer layer. This system will allow the phone to connect with the beacons as the user drives through the tunnel, and then connect them with the app to relay their location accurately on screen. 

The beacons were originally put in place by another Google-owned company, Waze, to combat the signal issue. It is the same technology that is often used in shopping malls. Supposedly the Waze Beacons are already in cities like New York, Chicago, Paris, Rio, Brussels, Oslo, Sydney, Boston and Mexico City. It is likely that, with Google Maps making use of the feature, we will see the number of locations expand.

Android Phone Google Maps Bluetooth activation toggle

(Image credit: Future)

This feature, when combined with the recent 3D map upgrade, will make traveling through cities more accurate. However, some of the largest tunnels tend to be found in the countryside, and there is currently no word on whether those will have the same Bluetooth addition soon. It is also unclear if this feature will come to iPhone versions of the app, which currently do not have the option. 

It is also good to know that Google is working to improve the system, as there has been some concern that the company appears to be downsizing many of the features that focus on drivers. For instance, it was recently reported that hidden lines of code hinted that the app's “Driving Mode” could be fully removed in 2024. It has been rumored that this is down to improvements to driving voice inputs and adding fewer distractions for drivers on the road.

This is by no means a massive addition, but it is an important one and gives a great example of how cities are adapting to modern technology. While the Bluetooth markers are currently more focused on cars, there are more applications for the technology. For instance, cities with dedicated underground transportation could make great use of the markers. Only time will tell how far this technology will improve over the next few years, and how Google Maps will adapt.

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Staff Writer

Josh is a staff writer for Tom's Guide and is based in the UK. He has worked for several publications but now works primarily on mobile phones. Outside of phones, he has a passion for video games, novels, and Warhammer.