Google Maps: Five features I'd like to see heading into Google IO

Measuring distance on Google Maps
(Image credit: Future)

Google Maps, like Google itself, is a bit of an icon. This status comes from years of constant updates, best-in-class dedication to consistent maps, and an overall pleasant UI. This being said, with the likes of Apple Maps starting to compete, Google will need to refresh the experience to make sure it stays ahead. 

A healthy, competitive ecosystem is also the best way to keep all competitors thriving and growing. Google is still the top dog in regards to maps so it needs to pull out the stops to show why. 

Luckily, with Google IO just around the corner, it's the perfect time to tease some new features and reasons to keep coming back. Here are five features I'd love to see come to Google Maps and why they may improve the overall experience.

Better Trip History

Though it has a rudimentary version of this, a more fleshed-out and complete trip history could really help the general experience of using Google Maps. More than a handful of times, I've taken an unknown route, only to realize how effective it is. 

If I want to come back and use it again, Google Maps will not help me out. It roughly pings areas on the map you've been to but won't tell you the routes you take or the transport you use. If you could even log your own experience to come back to later, this could add a lot of use to the way I approach maps. Also, while it has the ability to show you buses, trains, and general transport, it doesn't tend to log them very well. A running log of what you've used turned on optionally could really help overall use.

Trip Plans

I can be a bit of an anxious traveler when trying out a route for the very first time. The ability to plan your route and contrast this against weather and traffic information could help a lot on that night before a big trip.

This could be anything from planning where to have lunch to working out how long the trip will take, accounting for breaks, or a stop to refuel. You could potentially plug in your own times for those things and rely on the trip advice for the rest. 

Furthermore, this could pair perfectly with the ability to coordinate trips. You could potentially send the barebones of your plan to someone else and they could edit it or suggest changes like with Google Docs.

This could allow for a group of people to plan ahead, as opposed to four voices saying different things the morning of the journey.

Better focus on trips without using a car

Google Maps, in its very inception, is something primarily driven by car use. Given the way it collects map data, this does make sense but it doesn't mean we can't ask for something a little more nuanced. 

If you live in the middle of nowhere, many little roads and pathways aren't taken into account, leaving some of the best options out of reach. This is, admittedly a big ask but, merely two years ago, Jen Fitzpatrick, the mapping chief behind Google Maps, expressed a desire to focus on non-car use

In this, she praised the introduction of machine learning and automation in the making of maps and how that could potentially revolutionize the way maps are made. If Google Maps users get more accustomed to using it for other forms of travel, this can only help it move forward.

Smarter uses of its map technology

This builds on the last point. Google Maps is a pretty phenomenal piece of tech, helping millions of users reach their destinations.

That being said, the further you get away from big cities, the more inconsistent your experience is. From mistimed buses to inaccurate routes, it would be nice to see a little more attention put into the less busy cities and towns. 

This is, of course, asking a company to focus less on where its biggest consumers are, but a well-rounded, consistent experience on the go is what you imagine when using Google Maps. It functions incredibly well right now but could always get a little better.

Custom Pins

One thing that Apple Maps really benefits from is its inclusion in the Apple ecosystem. When you use it, it ties into every single thing you own. You have the ability to customize your experience to remember you down the line and sync up with all your devices. 

The option to add custom pins and tags to Google Maps would be a fantastic inclusion that plays into the vision of this entire list. A holistic approach to Google Maps could make the whole experience a little easier and, more importantly, much more functional.

If you could set up custom locations, ping them to your friends, and plan out your routes effectively, the entire package would be more useful. 

It's uncertain what we'll see at Google I/O in just a few weeks but it's a company with somewhat of a focus on testing new ideas. Hopefully, we can see just one of these features sometime soon.

James Bentley

James (he/they) is a freelance games journalist with over 500 pieces published at outlets including GamesRadar, NME, Prima Games, VG247, and God is a Geek.