Google Maps are already many people’s preferred app for directions on the road. But new updates coming this year will make Google Maps more useful indoors thanks to new augmented reality directions. And soon, Google will offer fuel-efficient routes for the environmentally-minded.
The update to Google’s Live View augmented reality (AR) feature may be the most standout new feature, though it will be very limited to start. In some malls, airports, and transit stations, Google Maps for iOS and Android will help you find a specific store or terminal.
That includes directions to face the correct way and to move upstairs and downstairs. Google will help you find check-in counters, baggage claim centers, restrooms, elevators, ATMs, and more.
You can get onscreen prompts in an AR view that uses your camera to show the real world and layer in your directions. If you’ve ever felt lost just looking at a mall or airport map, you might appreciate a more hands-on view.
But for now, you’ll only find the new directions in several malls in Chicago, Long Island, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle. Google plans to expand the new feature to select airports, malls, and transit stations in Tokyo and Zurich in the coming months, with more cities to follow.
Augmented Reality isn’t the only area of Google Maps that will see an update. Soon Google Maps will suggest the most fuel-efficient route you can take to a destination. If the most efficient way doesn’t take much longer than the fastest route, Google will default to that (unless you turn the feature off).
Where a more fuel-efficient route would take significantly longer to travel than the fastest route, Google will present you with options and information about carbon offsets for taking the slower route. Fuel-efficient routes will roll out in the coming months.
Google will also make choosing your mode of travel easier in an upcoming update. Instead of digging through tabs to choose between walking, biking, and other modes of travel. Google plans to show all the different routes on one scrollable page. If you prefer to bike rather than drive, Google will notice and surface more bike routes so you can get to them quickly.
And soon, Google Maps will give you weather and air quality updates in one place. Initially, it will show up as a new layer in Australia, India, and the U.S, with other countries to follow. The benefit of weather information is obvious; you’ll know to take an umbrella on that walk. But air quality updates can keep you healthy, too—if travel is optional, you can skip until local smog dissipates.
The new augmented reality features are live now in select cities, and the rest of the features will roll out in the coming year.