For planning your commute to work, a site seeing adventure on vacation, or a road trip to visit Great Aunt Ida with some fun stops along the way, Google Maps continues to roll out great new features for saving time and mapping out your best route. With so much going on it’s easy to miss some of the details so let's take a look. Here are some features, including predictive traffic and indoor maps, that you can use to get more out of Google Maps on your computer that will help you save time and money.
Let’s start by looking at the features that provide traffic information. Start by adding a place or destination(s). If you haven't used Google Maps before, do this by right clicking on a place and selecting either Directions from here or Directions to here or by typing the name of a place or an address into the directions search box.
Tip: To quickly view your current location just click on the location icon in the lower right corner. This will only work if you give Google permission to use their location services.
Now in the top left you can click the main menu ≡ and select traffic to view color-coded traffic flow information on your map.
When you do this the roads change in color to show you the speed of traffic on the road. The colors mean:
You may also see different icons indicating types of traffic incidents that are causing delays. These types of delays include accidents, construction, road closures, and other incidents. Click on an icon and a white box will appear with some details.
So far what we’ve been looking at is the default live traffic view but Google Maps also has an option for viewing predicted traffic for the day and time that you specify. In the bottom center of the screen, click on Live traffic and then select Typical traffic.
Once you have the Typical traffic interface just click on the day of the week and the time you want or click and hold to slide the cursor to the time you want to view. The map will update automatically as you make your changes. Now you can get an idea of the best times to travel in the area.
You can take your timesaving to the next level by looking at the best times to travel to and from specific destinations too. Once you've added your destinations and requested a route, Google Maps shows you the fastest routes.
Tip: If you see on the map that there is a current traffic jam then use Google Maps to find an alternate route by simply clicking, holding and dragging the route to view different routes that will take you around the traffic delay.
Here’s another option that uses predictive traffic technology. Under your list of destinations there is a Leave now link. Click on it to reveal two other options: Depart at and Arrive by.
Click and select a time and day for departure or arrival to see predicted results for travel time to or from your destination.
Google Maps is also starting to include indoor maps of commercial locations to save you the time of looking for building directories and allow you to plan ahead. Google provides a list of all available indoor maps by country for venues such as airports, hotels, universities, shopping centers, museums, rail stations, and more. Find indoor maps by zooming into the map until you see an indoor floor plan of the building. If it’s a multilevel building a level switcher will show the number of levels in the lower left corner. Tap on the numbered levels to move from floor to floor. According to Google, “Depending on the data available, the map will show notable places in the building you're currently viewing, including stores, restrooms, food, and more. Touch any indoor location to learn more.”
Tip: When I zoomed in to an indoor map to view the different levels of a building the level switcher didn’t automatically appear. What caused the levels to appear was zooming in and then clicking on a place in the building. This detail was not included in Google’s directions.
Now let’s look at some ways to use Google Maps to save money. If you right click on an area you can select Search nearby.
This will give you the automatic options for searching for nearby hotels, restaurants, bars and pubs.
Choose one and not only will the map show all of the locations for the type of business that you’ve selected but you’ll also get a detailed list on the left showing pictures, ratings, cuisine, hours, and a price indicator.
Click on Price to filter your results from $ to $$$$.
Information on gas prices is also available. Simply enter “gas station” in the search box and all of the stations nearby the place that you are viewing will show up on the map. Click on any station on the map to get more information or look at the result list on the left and get more details by clicking on a listing. If available, you will be able to view current prices at that station for Diesel, Regular, Mid-Grade, or Premium gasoline.
Here's one last option for possibly saving some cash. When choosing your route you can elect to eliminate any directions that would take you on toll roads or ferries. Just click on the Options link and select what you want to avoid.