Google Maps just got a major upgrade for drivers in big cities

A phone on an orange background showing 3D buildings in the Google Maps app
(Image credit: Future)

If you regularly use Google Maps on your Android or iOS phone while driving, you'll soon find it much more helpful in big cities – thanks to the arrival of new graphics for 3D buildings.

3D buildings have been available in the Google Maps app for a while in the layers tab (just tap the Layers icon, then 3D). But they haven't appeared while you're in navigation mode and traveling between two points – until now.

As spotted by 9to5Google and its readers, the Google Maps app for Android and iOS has started showing 3D buildings during navigation for some users – including us. That's a big boon for finding your way around cities, as it gives you another visual marker to help you spot your next turn.

A phone on an orange background showing 3D buildings in the Google Maps app

(Image credit: Future)

To see buildings in 3D, you need to have the '3D' layer turned on in the app's 'Map details' section. To do this, tap the Layers icon (see above), then '3D'. Once you've entered navigation mode by typing in an address and tapping 'directions', you should start to see the buildings appear when you're zoomed in.

Understandably, the feature only seems to appear when you're in cities or highly built-up areas, and you'll need to be zoomed into the map before they appear. But it certainly looks like a handy upgrade if you're driving through an unfamiliar capital – and it's also available for some on Android Auto and CarPlay, too.

Coming to Android Auto and CarPlay?

A phone on an orange background showing 3D buildings in the Google Maps app

(Image credit: Future)

While we haven't seen 3D buildings appear on Android Auto or CarPlay yet, there is anecdotal evidence that the feature has rolled out for some on both platforms in a few regions.

Some Reddit users have reported seeing the Google Maps feature appear in both Hong Kong (on Android Auto) and Canada (on CarPlay). But so far Google hasn't made an announcement about a global rollout. We've asked Google about this and will update this story when we hear back.

While not a drastic overhaul for Google Maps navigation, the inclusion of 3D buildings certainly looks useful for city driving. The building outlines are roughly to scale but are also transparent (as you can see above), which means that high-rises like The Shard in London won't block your navigation too much.

Once the feature does get a wider rollout, it'll also certainly be one to add to our list of the many things you didn't know Google Maps could do.

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Mark Wilson
Senior news editor

Mark is TechRadar's Senior news editor. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at both TechRadar and Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won The Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile.