Google Maps could become smarter than ever thanks to generative AI

Illustration of two women using Google maps on their phone
(Image credit: Google)

Google Maps is getting a dose of generative AI to let users search and find places in a more conversational manner, and serve up useful and interesting suggestions. 

This smart AI tech comes in the form of an 'Ask about' user interface where people can ask Google Maps questions like where to find “places with a vintage vibe” in San Francisco. That will prompt the AI to analyze information about nearby businesses and places, such as photos, ratings and reviews, to serve up suggestions related to the question being asked.  

From the above example, Google said Maps served up vinyl record stores, clothing stores, and flea markets in its suggestions. These included the location along with its rating, reviews, number of times rated, and distance by car. The AI then provides review summaries that highlight why a place might be of interest. 

You can then ask follow-up questions that remember your previous query, using the information in that query to provide context for your next search. For example, when asked, “How about lunch?” the AI will take into account the “vintage vibe” comment from the previous prompt and use that to offer an old-school diner nearby.

Screengrabs of the new generative AI features on Google Maps showing searches and suggestions

(Image credit: Google)

You can save the suggestions or share them, helping you coordinate with friends who might all have different preferences like being vegan, checking if a venue is dog friendly, making sure it's indoors, and so on.

By tapping into the search giant’s large-language models, Google Maps can analyze detailed information using data from more than 250 million locations, and photos, ratings and reviews from its community of over 300 million contributors to provide “trustworthy” suggestions. 

The experimental feature is starting to roll out now but is only coming to "select Local Guides" in the US. It will use these members' insights and feedback to develop and test the feature before what’s likely to be its eventual full rollout, which Google has not provided a date for.

Does anyone want this?  

Users on the Android subreddit were very critical of the feature, with some referring to AI as a buzzword that big companies are chasing for clout. User lohet said: “Generative AI doesn't have any place in a basic database search. There's nothing to generate. It's either there or it's not.”

Many users said they would rather see Google improve offline Maps and its location-sharing features. User chronocapybara summarized the feelings of others in the forum by saying: “If it helps find me things I'm searching for, I'm all for it. If it offloads work to the cloud, making search slower, just to give me more promoted places that are basically ads, then no.”

However, AI integration in our everyday apps is here to stay, and its inclusion in Google Maps could lead to users being able to discover brand-new places easily and helping smaller businesses gain attention and find an audience.

Until the features roll out, you can make the most of Google Maps with our 10 things you didn't know Google Maps could do

You may also like

Staff Writer, Mobile Computing

James Ide is a writer for TechRadar specializing in phones and tablets, having previously worked at The Daily Mirror since 2016, covering news and reviews.  


James loves messing with the latest tech, especially phones due to their incredibly rapid pace of development.


When not surrounded by various devices and/or tinkering with gadgets while putting them through their paces, James has a love of handheld consoles.


He is almost the textbook definition of a geek, who loves sci-fi, comics, games and of course, all things tech. If you think you have a story for him or just want to challenge him at Smash Bros, get in touch.