Google wants to make it easier to find information during a crisis or natural disaster or when you are speeding.
The search giant announced new features for “SOS alerts” on Google Maps. The app already lets you see basic information about a crisis, like what’s happening, emergency phone numbers and Twitter updates from authorities.
“In the days leading up to a hurricane, you’ll see a crisis notification card on Google Maps that automatically appears if you’re near the impacted area,” Hannah Stulberg, Product Manager of Google Maps, explains. “This card will direct you to a hurricane forecast cone, which shows the prediction of the storm’s trajectory along with information about what time it’s likely to hit certain areas, so you can use this information to plan how to react.”
Google’s SOS Alerts already provide users with warning information about disasters, as well as important telephone numbers and updates from local officials. But this new update will automatically give you a special warning card on the Map screen alerting you about the location of an upcoming or recent disaster.
In the case of a hurricane, the feature will provide you with an alert that you can tap on to reveal a detailed look at the storm’s potential path of travel. The path mapping will also give you times and dates for when the storm is expected to reach certain regions. All of the information for hurricanes comes from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), while Japan’s hurricane coverage will come from the country’s Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA).
Earthquakes, which are notoriously difficult to predict, will get a different treatment. Rather than providing a projected range for the earthquake’s impact, a Google card will pop up after the quake to give users a sense of how far the shaking was felt—That radius won’t necessarily correspond with damage caused by the quake, but rather its overall magnitude. Earthquake information will come from the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
Since you use Maps for, you know, directions, Google is adding alerts that will ensure you don’t travel into the line of disaster areas when you’re on the road. If your current route puts you into the path of a disaster zone like an area impacted by an earthquake, or where a hurricane is about to make landfall, Maps will send you an alert and divert you around the area.
In addition to helping you avoid disasters, Google’s Maps will give you the ability to share your location information with friends and loved ones you want to keep informed as you evacuate a disaster zone. You can also share road closures with other users, and more.
Also, added a new functionality which allows users know when speeding, and it can be turned on in the app’s preferences under Navigation Settings, and will display a speedometer in the bottom left corner of the screen when using driving guidance. It’s a nice addition to the speed limit and trap indicators and means Maps now alerts you when you’re speeding. However, it doesn’t fully work with Android Auto yet, so you’re out of luck if you’re not driving with a mount — the speedometer will show if you’re using the Auto app, though.
Unfortunately, the speedometer doesn’t seem to be widely available yet, but the good news is we’ve received reports of it showing up in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, India, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Taiwan, the UK, and the US. It’s fair to expect it will deploy the new feature more widely soon,
The new features are part of a push to make Maps a more useful hub of information beyond just looking up directions. However, the hurricane and earthquake information will be available globally, but the flooding information will be limited to areas of India for now, as 20% of flooding fatalities come from that region. —The new navigation tools are coming this summer.