Google Maps improves tools and tips for shoppers and travelers

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Angela Lang / CNET

Google on Tuesday unveiled new improvements to Google Maps to help people navigate shopping malls, airports and transit stations as shoppers and travelers prepare for the holidays.

Google Maps’ Directory tab in action.

Google

The technology giant is expanding its Directory function to help people better find their way around large buildings, so they can quickly see which shops are inside or the location of, among other things, airport lounges, car rental kiosks or parking spaces. The enhancements, which roll out to both Android and iOS apps, will also include relevant information such as opening hours and ratings.

Another Google Maps feature that rolls out to people in time for the holidays is called Area Busyness. Combining live trends, the feature identifies when a specific neighborhood or area is busiest or almost there. Depending on your destinations, the feature can help you avoid congested areas or find the busiest places while traveling.

Google Maps also seeks to make grocery shopping on these holidays easier by tracking the status of orders placed with retailers, including sharing your expected arrival time and notifying retailers when you arrive to pick up your order. Google said the feature is now available in more than 2,000 stores in more than 30 states across the United States.

“People who use pickup with Google Maps typically wait less than five minutes for their groceries, which means you can grab exactly what you need and get back to your day,” Google said in a statement.

Vacationing and shopping often means finding a place to eat when you are not in your own neighborhood. To help people find dining options that do not blow their budget, Google is adding restaurant price ranges based on user contributions. It also increases restaurant reviews, adds information on whether outdoor dining is available, delivery options and pickup at the curb.

The announcements come as Google tries to push its Maps app beyond just getting people from one point to another. In the last few years, the company has launched social features, including restaurant recommendations, as well as tools to connect people with local businesses such as plumbers or yoga instructors. As Google introduces new features, they are feeding the company’s huge computer that the company uses to strengthen its lucrative personalized advertising business.

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