It’s hard to imagine a time when you couldn’t use Google Maps to get around, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. The good news is a bunch of improvements are on the way with a new Google Maps update.
The latest Google Maps beta just arrived, and it includes better support for ride sharing services, building numbers and even markers for crosswalks.
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The improvements to Google Maps' ride sharing support is the most important part of this update. It's even getting a dedicated sub-menu in settings aptly titled “Ride services." Getting ride share information through Google Maps is nothing new, but now Google is going to start sending route information to the companies involved. That way you can get a more accurate fare estimate.
Currently Uber is the only company available in the ride services menu, and you have to opt in before Google will start sharing data to improve the fare accuracy. It looks like you have to opt in for each ride share company as they come on board, rather than an all-or-nothing situation. The benefit is that you have the option to avoid companies you don’t use, or opt out to stop sharing data after the fact.
Android Police also noticed that turning the feature on and off made no difference on the price of an Uber trip, which means this is likely still in the early stages of development.
As for building numbers and crosswalks, you're going to have to zoom in really close on the map to seem them. Crosswalks aren't universally visible right now; we noticed crosswalks were visible in New York and London, but not other large cities like Los Angeles and Chicago. We're assuming that data is still being added.
Building numbers are more widespread at the moment, though we noticed they aren't 100 percent accurate once you start looking outside of the big cities. Still, adding both crosswalks and building numbers are going to be very useful for people who aren't entirely familiar with their surroundings.
You can sign up to become a Google Maps beta tester over on Google Play. That’s as easy as clicking a button and then downloading the app from there. Alternatively, you can sideload an APK, provided you can find one and are okay with the risks that involves.
Just be aware that not all the new Google Maps features may be available right away, since we were unable to see the ride services menu when we first installed the latest version of the beta.