Google made several Google Maps announcements at its Search On event on Wednesday. They highlight some of Google’s initiatives related to navigation that may not have an immediate impact on the way most people use the app. The primary purpose of Google Maps remains to help people navigate their surroundings, whether they are driving or exploring nearby attractions on foot. But that simple Google Maps experience can suffer greatly under certain circumstances, and that’s where Google’s new features come in. Like the new Google Maps wildfire layer that could actually save your life.
Wildfire layer in Google Maps
Last year, Google announced a new wildfire feature in Google Maps showing users nearby forest fires. It also displays up-to-date information on related threats. Wildfires are the type of emergency that will significantly affect navigation and directions, of course.
Some regions of the world routinely experience wildfires. But things get worse every year as climate change continues to take its toll. This year alone, we’ve seen wildfires appear around the world as the summer heat rolled in.
That’s why Google has been updated wildfire boundary map functionality to a full Google Maps layer. Tapping the forest fire layer is enough to bring up information about your area. You will see if there are fires around you and get all the emergency information you may need if an evacuation is advised.
The wildfire layer will also display containment information when possible. Google Maps will also show how many acres have been burned, if that information is made public. Google also said it is partnering with the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) to show more information about fires. Australia will be the next to receive similar coverage in the coming months.
The new layer will be rolled out to Google Maps globally, starting with Android. The iPhone and desktop versions of Google Maps will get it in October.
Tree Canopy Insights and Address Creator
The constant rise in average temperatures is also an important result of climate change. Summer heat can be deadly without wildfires, and Google relies on its satellite information from Google Maps to help cities mitigate extreme heat.
Google will expand its Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE) Tree Canopy tool to more than 100 new cities next year. Tree Canopy Insights is a feature that uses aerial imagery and artificial intelligence to find places that are at risk of experiencing a rise in temperature. The feature is available in 15 US cities right now. They can take advantage of it to increase the shade areas by planting more trees.
Lastly, Google also expanded another Google Maps feature that most people will not regularly experience. Google continues its work of bringing addresses to billions of people around the world who do not have a physical address. That’s because the streets are nameless, which makes navigation difficult. Also, not having an address affects other aspects of everyday life, such as opening bank accounts and voting.
Google uses an open source system called Plus Codes you can quickly assign addresses to any street. The new Address Maker app will help organizations in countries still facing this problem. They will be able to create unique addresses that people can take advantage of.
Unlike the Wildfire layer, the Tree Canopy Insights and Address Maker features will not be immediately visible to most Google Maps users. But they can certainly have an impact in various parts of the world when it comes to improving navigation and quality of life.