To organize the world's geographic information and make it universally accessible and useful. News, tips and candid tales of Google Maps. Read the latest news and updates about Google Maps, which makes navigating and exploring your world faster and easier.
The world is a beautiful, messy, constantly changing place—roads are added, buildings are built, and new businesses are opened all the time. Our role on the Google Maps team is to accurately model and reflect this ever-evolving world, and we’re often asked how we make a map that does that. The answer is, it takes a number of different steps, and the right mix of people, techniques and technology.
In a series of posts over the coming months, we’ll give you a closer look at how we build our map—diving deep into each of the elements we use to help more than one billion people navigate, explore and get things done. Today, we’ll start with an overview of the basics.
It all starts with imagery
Street View and satellite imagery have long been an important part of how we’re able to identify where places are in the world—it shows us where roadways, buildings, addresses and businesses are located in a region, in addition to other important details—such as the town’s speed limits or business names. In 2007, Street View launched to help people virtually explore the entire world, from the depths of Antarctica to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. In the 12 years since then, our Street View car and trekker operations have collected more than 170 billion images from 87 countries. Thanks to our newest trekker that is equipped with higher-resolution sensors and increased aperture, we’ve significantly improved the quality of imagery we capture.
A Street View trekker
Then you add data
Authoritative data brings the map to life. Our data comes from more than 1,000 third-party sources from all over the world. Some, like the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) in Mexico, provide information about an entire country. Others are specific to smaller regions, like data from a local municipality, an NGO or a housing developer. Our teams carefully vet every authoritative data source to ensure that we have the most accurate and up-to-date data available. And recently, we introduced a new tool to make it easier for local governments to upload dataabout new roads and addresses in their area, right to Google Maps.
Road outlines from one of our data partners, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography.
A human touch
Data and imagery are key components of mapmaking, but they’re static and can’t always keep up with the pace of how quickly the world changes. This brings us to the third piece: the people that help us tie everything together. We have a data operations team staffed all over the world that plays a role in just about every aspect of mapmaking, from gathering Street View images and vetting authoritative data sources to correcting the map for inaccuracies and training machine learning models (more on that in a second).
We also have our community of Local Guides and Google Maps users, whom we empower to correct the map via the Send Feedback button in Google Maps. Our team reviews the information and publishes it if we have a high degree of confidence that it matches the roads, businesses and addresses in the real world.
Our data operations team at work
Speeding things up with machine learning
Imagery, authoritative data and human input have gotten us to where we are, but we want to make our maps more useful to more people even faster. To increase the speed of our mapping, we turn to machine learning. Machine learning allows our team to automate our mapping processes, while maintaining high levels of accuracy.
Let’s look at how we map building outlines as an example. Previously, an algorithm that tried to guess whether part of an image was a building or not resulted in what we dubbed “fuzzy buildings”—amorphous blobs that didn’t look like real buildings when you draw them on a map. And this was an issue—buildings are more than just buildings—they’re landmarks and a key part of how someone knows where they are when looking at a map. To fix this, we worked with our data operations team to trace common building outlines manually, and then used this information to teach our machine learning algorithms which images correspond with building edges and shapes. This technique proved effective, enabling us to map as many buildings in one year as we mapped in the previous 10.
Fuzzy building outlines on Google Maps.
Clear building polygons outlined on the map.
We’re in it for the long haul
Maps are critical to helping communities thrive. They connect people with each other, help grow economies as people discover new businesses and restaurants, and help people get things done. Although we’ve come a long way, with maps in more than 220 countries and territories to date, we know that our work is far from over. Different regions have different needs, and their own mapping challenges. In our next post, we’ll take a closer look at how one component—imagery—helps us overcome these challenges.
That’s how Margaret Hamilton describes working on the software that put us on the moon. Margaret led the team that developed the onboard flight software for all of NASA’s manned Apollo missions, including Apollo 11’s historic moon landing.
With the anniversary of that moon landing approaching, Google set out to shine a light on Margaret’s influence on Apollo, and on the field of software engineering itself. The tribute was created by positioning over 107,000 mirrors at the Ivanpah Solar Facility in the Mojave Desert to reflect the light of the moon, instead of the sun, like the mirrors normally do. The result is a 1.4-square-mile portrait of Margaret, bigger than New York’s Central Park.
The Margaret Hamilton tribute, with the Eiffel Tower for scale
The moonlit portrait has an area of 1.4 square miles, big enough to fit more than 200 Eiffel Towers.
The Ivanpah Solar Facility generates enough solar energy for 140,000 California homes.
The Ivanpah Solar Facility generates enough solar energy for 140,000 California homes.
Hundreds of thousands of massive mirrors reflect the light of the sun throughout the day.
Hundreds of thousands of massive mirrors reflect the light of the sun throughout the day.
The mirrors, repurposed at night to track the moon, creating a moonlit image.
The mirrors were repurposed at night to track the moon and create a moonlit image.
The summer moon beams down, transforming Ivanpah into a massive display.
The team took a photograph of the moon at the exact position and time as the tribute to Margaret.
Moonlight catches the mirrors as they take position to form an image as big as New York’s Central Park.
Moonlight catches the mirrors as they take position to form an image as big as New York’s Central Park.
Portrait of Margaret Hamilton, visible from 1,900 meters above sea level.
The portrait of Margaret Hamilton was visible from 1,900 meters above sea level.
At the MIT Instrumentation Lab in the 1960s, Margaret was working on code for the Apollo Guidance Computer. A working mom, she sometimes did what a lot of us do: she took her daughter, Lauren, to the office. Margaret would often test programs in the simulator, and Lauren liked to play astronaut like her mom. One day, Lauren crashed the simulator after she pressed a button that set off a prelaunch program while the mission was in mid-flight.
Margaret didn’t scold Lauren. Instead, she was struck with a thought: “What if an astronaut did the same thing during a real mission?” Margaret lobbied to add code that would prevent a system crash from actually happening if he did.
This way of thinking came to define Margaret’s work. She’d always ask, “What if something you never thought would happen, happens?” Then, she’d develop and test a system that would be prepared for that scenario.
Her “what if” mindset was crucial throughout the Apollo missions, where the software had to work perfectly, and had to work the first time, in space. Keep in mind, this was at a time when software engineering literally wasn’t even a thing yet—Margaret herself coined the phrase “software engineering” while working on Apollo.
Margaret, in 1969, standing beside the listings of the actual Apollo Guidance Computer source code. Photo courtesy of the MIT Museum.
Margaret’s mindset most famously paid off moments before Apollo 11 was set to land. The guidance computer was overwhelmed with tasks and underwent a series of restarts, triggering alarms that could have forced an abort. But the team’s software was reliable, and the priority display (that Margaret created, and fought to include) let the astronauts and Mission Control know what they were dealing with. The Eagle was able to land safely, and Neil Armstrong was able to take that one small step.
As the anniversary of that historic moment approaches, we can all thank Margaret for her part in it. But I find myself thanking her for so much more:
For pioneering the field of software engineering. A field that has changed our world.
For reminding us to think always of the user, and to keep pushing to make software more reliable, and more helpful, for them.
For inspiring us all to take moonshots, showing us what’s possible when you work tirelessly toward them, and demonstrating what magic can come when you allow a child’s perspective to change the way you think about the world.
Bikesharing is booming as this two-wheeled technology transforms how people get from A to B in cities around the planet. With an estimated 1,600 bikeshare systems and more than 18 million shared bikes in urban centers worldwide, bikesharing has gone mainstream. And for good reason--it’s a convenient, affordable, fun and hassle-free way to get around.
For the past year, travellers and commuters in New York City have been using Google Maps to both locate bikesharing stations and see exactly how many bikes are available at a station in real-time. Today, we’re rolling out this feature to a total of 24 cities in 16 countries.
Search for a bikeshare system in Google Maps to see available bikes nearby.
From New Taipei City to Toronto, you can now use Google Maps to locate bikeshare stations and pinpoint how many bikes are available near you. You can also find out whether there’s an empty space at a station near your destination for you to leave your bike. This is all made possible by incorporating a new global bike share data feed directly into Google Maps, thanks to a partnership with Ito World.
Whether you’re traveling in a new city or planning your daily commute, Google Maps is making it easier to weigh all your transportation options with real-time information. Just like how we show you when buses and trains are coming and going in Google Maps, you’ll now know which bikeshare stations have a bike ready for you.
This bird’s eye view into bikesharing is now available in Google Maps on Android and iOS in the following cities globally with more on the way: Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Budapest, Chicago, Dublin, Hamburg, Helsinki, Kaohsiung, London, Los Angeles, Lyon, Madrid, Mexico City, Montreal, New Taipei City, New York City, Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco Bay Area, São Paulo, Toronto, Vienna, Warsaw and Zurich.
Crowdedness predictions come from optional feedback directly from the people who use Google Maps. In fact, you may have received notifications asking about how crowded your subway, train, or bus ride was after navigating in transit mode. To learn more about how crowdedness levels vary around the world, we analyzed aggregated and anonymized reports of crowdedness from Google Maps users from October 2018 to June 2019 during peak commuting hours (6am - 10am), and identified which lines had the highest number of crowdedness reports. Here’s what we found:
When it comes to the most-crowded transit lines, Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo dominate the rankings–each city has 3 lines in the top 10.
New York’s famed L train–which, until recently, was on the verge of closing for repair– is the only U.S. transit line to make it into the top 10.
Among many U.S. cities, the most-crowded public transit routes are buses. In Los Angeles, for example, bus routes 152, 105, and 704 are among the most-crowded.
On days when everything runs smoothly, taking public transit is one of the best ways to get around town. Not only is it cost-effective and efficient, but it also lets you stay hands free so you can sit back, relax and maybe even read a few chapters of your favorite book. But unexpected delays or overcrowded vehicles can quickly turn your ride from enjoyable to stressful. Starting today, Google Maps is rolling out two new features to help you better plan for your transit ride and stay more comfortable along the way.
Live traffic delays for buses
When you have an important meeting, a date with a friend, or a doctor’s appointment, often the first thing you’ll do is check the transit schedule to make sure you can make it on time. Unfortunately, transit schedules don’t always reflect real-time traffic conditions that impact your ride, which can cause a lot of unnecessary stress when you end up arriving later than you thought you would.
To solve for this, Google Maps is launching live traffic delays for buses in places where we don’t already have real-time information direct from local transit agencies. You’ll now be able to see if your bus will be late, how long the delay will be, and more accurate travel times based on live traffic conditions along your route. You’ll also see exactly where the delays are on the map so you know what to expect before you even hop on your bus.
Live traffic delays for buses
There’s nothing more uncomfortable than being packed like a can of sardines on a hot, sweaty train. We’re introducing transit crowdedness predictions so you can see how crowded your bus, train or subway is likely to be based on past rides. Now you can make an informed decision about whether or not you want to squeeze on, or wait a few more minutes for a vehicle where you’re more likely to snag a seat.
Crowdedness predictions in transit navigation
You’ll start to see these features roll out on Google Maps in nearly 200 cities around the globe on both Android and iOS today. Interested in learning more about crowdedness trends in your area? Check it out in this post.
Google Maps helps people explore, navigate and get things done—and increasingly people are using Google Maps to find local businesses. Over the years, we’ve added more than 200 million places to Google Maps and every month we connect people to businesses more than nine billion times, including more than one billion phone calls and three billion requests for directions.
To help people find the places and businesses they're looking for—both big and small—Local Guides, business owners and people using Maps every day can contribute to business information. We get millions of contributions each day (like new business profiles, reviews, star ratings, and more) and the vast majority of these contributions are helpful and accurate. But occasionally, business scammers take advantage of local listings to make a profit. They do things like charge business owners for services that are actually free, defraud customers by posing as real businesses, and impersonate real businesses to secure leads and then sell them. Even though fake business profiles are a small percentage of the overall business profiles on Google, local business scammers have been a thorn in the internet’s side for over a decade. They even existed back when business listings were printed, bound and delivered to your doorstep. We take these issues very seriously and have been using a wide array of techniques and approaches to limit abuse on our platforms.
These scammers use a wide range of deceptive techniques to try to game our system—as we shut them down, they change their techniques, and the cycle continues. Although it’s important that we make it easy for legitimate businesses to get their business profiles on Google, we’ve also implemented strict policies and created tools that enable people to flag these issues so we can take action. It’s a constant balancing act and we’re continually working on new and better ways to fight these scams using a variety of ever-evolving manual and automated systems. But we can’t share too many details about these efforts without running the risk of actually helping scammers find new ways to beat our systems—which defeats the purpose of all the work we do.
We understand the concerns of those people and businesses impacted by local business scammers and back in 2017 we announced the progress we’d made. There was still work to be done then and there’s still work to be done now. We have an entire team dedicated to addressing these issues and taking constant action to remove profiles that violate our policies. Here’s more information about the progress we made against this type of abuse last year:
We took down more than 3 million fake business profiles––and more than 90 percent of those business profiles were removed before a user could even see the profile.
Our internal systems were responsible for more than 85 percent of these removals.
More than 250,000 of the fake business profiles we removed were reported to us by users.
We disabled more than 150,000 user accounts that were found to be abusive – a 50 percent increase from 2017.
This year, we’ve already introduced a new way to report suspicious business profiles and have started to apply refined techniques to business categories where we’re seeing an increase in fraud attempts. To help foster a healthy ecosystem, we’re also donating settlement funds from litigation against bad actors to organizations that educate businesses and consumers about fraud. As we continue to fight against fraud, we’re making sure people people can flag issues when they see them. Here’s how:
People can flag individual business profiles for removal. We use such reports to investigate content and take it down if it’s found to be in violation of our policies. We also investigate the associated accounts if they’re suspected of broader abuse.
People can report multiple business profiles at once via the business redressal form to kick off the review process.
Every month Maps is used by more than a billion people around the world, and every day we and our users work as a community to improve the map for each other. We know that a small minority will continue trying to scam others, so there will always be work to do and we’re committed to keep doing better.
Since launching Google My Business five years ago, we’ve helped more than 150 million local businesses connect with people who are looking for them online. Today, when people search for businesses, they’re on the hunt for something more specific--like “late night restaurants near Washington Square Park” or “rooftop happy hour with great cocktails.” And they’re looking to get more things done--whether that’s booking, a reservation, or asking what products a store offers.
We’ve evolved Google My Business to better meet these needs--from redesigned, easier-to-use mobile apps to making restaurant reservations directly from Google. Today, we’re rolling out more features to help businesses make their Profiles as unique as they are and as descriptive as the queries that get customers there.
Attract people with welcome offers: Did someone say deal? We’ve found that more than half of online customers are looking for an offer or discount. Starting today, businesses can reward customers who follow their business on Google with welcome offers , turning happy first time customers into loyal, repeat ones.
You can receive a Welcome Offer by following some of your favorite businesses on Maps
Find businesses quicker with short names and URLs:Business owners can now claim a short name and URL for their business. With this URL, businesses can easily refer customers back to their Profile - to catch up on latest updates, to make a booking or to write a review after a visit. In the coming months, people will also be able to search short names in Maps.
Show personality with cover photos: Businesses can easily set their preferred profile cover photo, putting their best foot forward.
Identify companies with more prominent logos:Businesses have an additional branding opportunity with the logo feature. Those that have completed their core information (phone number, hours, etc) will have their logo displayed at the top right-hand side of their profile.
Get visual with photo displays:Photos uploaded by a business will appear instantly and prominently on a new dynamic module on the Profile. Photo captions, which are coming, will let businesses tell the stories behind the pictures.
Create offline materials:We’re also launching a website where businesses can easily download and order custom assets for their place--like stickers--to help promote bookings on the profile, adding reviews and customer following.
The new features can help a Business Profile be as descriptive as possible.
Finally, we want to recognize those businesses that consistently deliver a great experience for people. We’ll be highlighting the top five percent of businesses in a particular category with the “Local Favorite” designation. To help people easily find and engage with these businesses, we’re also creating digital and physical badges of honors. Stay tuned for more details on these recognition categories coming later this summer.
More descriptive profiles not only help consumers quickly find the business that best suits their needs, but also help businesses stand out and express what is unique about them. We’re excited to keep improving Maps and Search for everyone, and help businesses succeed on Google.
Editor’s note:In honor of Juneteenth, we’re sharing this story about a Google Earth Outreach project that highlights African American history. In today’s post, Justin Reid, Director of African American programs, and Peter Hedlund, Director of Encyclopedia Virginia—both of the state humanities council Virginia Humanities—talk about documenting slave dwellings using Google Street View.
On Virginia’s rural farms, in city townhouses, and beneath grand plantations are spaces where enslaved African-Americans lived from the 1600s until sometimes long after Emancipation. Every day, people pass by these slave dwellings, which are often in disrepair, with no idea who lived there. These dwellings and other African-American historic sites are an important part of Virginia’s history—yet out of the nearly 250,000 cultural and historic resources documented by the state, only one percent are officially identified as reflecting African-American history.
It’s easy to forget about the painful yet important parts of American history when we can’t see them. By immersing ourselves in the places where enslaved communities once lived, we are confronted with a history that cannot be ignored. So to virtually preserve these living spaces and give people access to them, we created custom Street View imagery for tours of a dozen slave dwellings throughout Virginia, which date from the late 1700s to the mid 1800s.
How virtual preservation opens doors to slave dwellings
Several years ago, when Google Street View began to include views of interiors, we saw an opportunity to document slave dwellings for Encyclopedia Virginia, where we collect resources about the state’s history and culture. Most of the former housing sites for enslaved people are on private property, and therefore not open to visitors. Our virtual tours give access to places that people can’t visit in person.
The Street View tours also play a role in virtual preservation. Many of the dwellings are in poor condition—even in worse shape than when we started photographing them a few years ago. By creating the virtual tours, we preserve the dwellings for future generations.
For the tours, we consciously chose a range of dwelling types and locations to highlight how ubiquitous slavery was throughout Virginia—from the Eastern Shore to Mecklenburg County. People tend to think that enslaved people only lived on rural plantations. But we have tours of slave dwellings in urban cities like Alexandriaand Richmond, which challenge the stereotypes of how enslaved people lived.
Ensuring enslaved people’s place in history
Justin has a personal connection to the Street View tour of a slave dwelling at Ampthill, a former plantation in Cumberland County. His great-great grandfather, Reverend Jacob Randolph Sr., was born into slavery at Ampthill in 1859. The dwelling in the tour, a brick two-story structure, is beside the main plantation house; the kitchen quarters building, where enslaved people also lived, still stands.
The Ampthill slave quarters, where Justin’s great-grandfather may have lived as a child, illustrate the challenges of documenting dwellings. Previous owners of Ampthill thought one of the structures was a post-Civil War weaver’s cottage. When we brought Jobie Hill, a preservation architect and founder of Saving Slave Houses, to Ampthill, she immediately identified the building as a pre-Civil War slave dwelling. So many slave houses are misidentified, which hurts efforts to document them.
We hope that if more people are aware of slave dwellings and view our Street View tours, more sites can be documented and perhaps preserved—and more of us recall the enslaved people who are too often left out of our historical narratives. The people and the places they lived in deserve to be part of the American story.
My father was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes as a teenager. He spent most of his life on insulin, until he went into kidney failure when I was four years old. After years on the donor list, a kidney and pancreas became available. He received seven blood transfusions in his 14-hour surgery. But two years later, his body rejected the kidney and he was back to square one. Through the kindness of his brother who was a match, my father received his second kidney transplant, along with several pints of blood. Without blood donors, my father wouldn’t have survived those surgeries and might not be alive today, 20 years later.
Katen and her dad
My father's journey has made me passionate about ensuring that people like him have access to blood when they need it. Although 45 percent of Americans have been personally affected by blood donation, only 3 percent of Americans regularly donate blood.
I’m personally unable to donate blood, but I’ve found another way to give back to the cause: organizing blood drives at Google. Through my work organizing 20 blood drives, I’ve encountered countless others who have personal ties to blood donation, including Googlers like Daniel Otts, who regularly donates blood in memory of his son Ferris who required plasma infusions after being born prematurely. Losing Ferris forever changed Daniel’s outlook on blood donation. “I remember how thankful I was that someone, an anonymous stranger, had given of themselves so unselfishly for the benefit of someone else, quite possibly in a life or death situation,” Daniel told me.
Through these drives, we’ve collected thousands of pints of blood. And through Google’s partnership with the American Red Cross, which uses Google Maps Platform to help people find a blood drive near them, we’ve reached thousands more people across the U.S.
This technology also helped Temie Giwa-Tubosun, a Nigerian native and founder of LifeBank, an app that uses Google Maps Platform to connect blood banks with drivers, hospitals, and patients in need. To date, Temie’s app has drastically cut delivery time of blood from 24 hours to less than 45 minutes and helped save more than 4,000 lives.
Through my own experience, I know how important it is to give blood. And Daniel and Temie are proof of that, too. On World Blood Donor Day, we hope you’ll visit the Red Cross site to find a blood drive near you and plan your donation.
SOS alerts help you quickly access authoritative, real-time information during times of crisis. Today, we’re improving SOS alerts by adding visual information about natural disasters and a new navigation warning system on Google Maps so you can more reliably know where a disaster is and anticipate where it’s headed. Read on to learn about what’s changing, along with three ways to help you stay connected and informed during times of emergency.
Hurricane forecast cones, earthquake shakemaps and flood forecasts
With SOS alerts, you can already see important crisis information—a summary of what’s happening, relevant news stories, emergency phone numbers and websites, Twitter updates from local authorities, and tips to help you find your way to safety. Now, you’ll also be able to see detailed visualizations about hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods to give you a better understanding of the situation on the ground.
In the days leading up to a hurricane, you’ll see a crisis notification card on Google Maps that automatically appears if you’re near the impacted area. This card will direct you to a hurricane forecast cone, which shows the prediction of the storm’s trajectory along with information about what time it’s likely to hit certain areas, so you can use this information to plan how to react.
After an earthquake strikes, tapping on the crisis card will display the earthquake’s shakemap—a visualization that shows you its epicenter, its magnitude, along with color coding to indicate how intense the shaking was in surrounding areas. This information can help you quickly assess the reach of the earthquake and and identify areas likely to have experienced the highest impact. And in India, where over 20 percent of global flood-related fatalities occur, you’ll now be able to see flood forecasts that show you where flooding is likely to occur in addition to the expected severity in different areas.
Hurricane forecast cones
Crisis navigation warnings on Google Maps
Later this summer, you’ll see a prominent alert if we think your route may be affected by crisis activity— and when possible, we’ll do our best to route you away from the disrupted area.
During a crisis, every minute matters. Here are three other ways you can use Google Maps to stay connected and quickly get the help and information you need:
Share your location:Letting loved ones know where you are is vital during fast-moving, chaotic situations. From the crisis card, you can share your live location with friends and family for as little as 15 minutes, or until you decide to stop sharing.
See and report road closures: Turn on the traffic layer to see all known and suspected road closures in an area. If you encounter a closure on your drive, you can report it to help others nearby. You can also confirm whether or not a road is still closed with a quick tap on Android.
Share crisis information directly with the ones you care about:Tap on theshare button from the crisis card to keep friends and family up to date about the situation. They’ll be directed to Google Maps where they’ll see all available crisis information- which could include a summary, visualizations, emergency contact information, and more.
Hurricane forecast cones and earthquake shakemaps will start rolling out in the coming weeks on Android, iOS, desktop, and mobile web. Flood forecasts visualizations will soon roll out starting in Patna, India, and then expand to the Ganges and Brahmaputra regions on Android, desktop, and mobile web.