Google made the news once again in June with the announcement that Google Maps would soon be updating its database to include canals and waterways as viable routes for travel.
The announcement came after Google partnered up with the Canal and River Trust, the charity body that will be responsible for the United Kingdom’s network of waterways, as of July this year. Over two thousand miles of canal and river routes will be added to the Google Maps database, allowing users, for the first time ever, to plan a journey based on canal- or river-travel.
In addition to improving flexibility and functionality for the end user, the Google Maps changes are also set to benefit the environment, by cutting down on the amount of essential road journeys – and therefore pollution. As of the current system, using Google Maps to navigate between two relatively close-together locations may send the user off on a half-hour car journey.
Depending on the locations in question, it’s possible that there is actually a far shorter route, simply requiring a quick float down a local waterway, or a ten-minute walk, down along the riverbank. Because users aren’t told of these alternatives, they are often going unused in lieu of extensive car travel. Updating Google Maps to highlight these alternative routes will cut back on the number of essential car journeys, and therefore carbon emissions.
The example given by Canal and River Trust spokesman in a discussion with the BBC was travel between Paddington and Camden in London. The spokesman, Jonathan Ludford, said: ‘I’m by a canal in Paddington and I want to go to Camden, and I put this information into Google Maps as a walking route – it wouldn’t send me to the canal… it would send me by road.’
It is hoped that the new Google Maps will encourage those living close to canals and waterways to explore their local area, as well as discovering the fun and practical applications these waterways can fulfil.
This update wasn’t the only reason Google Maps hit the news this week. When Apple unveiled its latest technological triumph, the iOS6 operating system, which will feature on upcoming iPhones, iPads and iPods – essentially powering Apple’s entire range – the company also announced that they would be dropping Google Maps as its satellite tracking and global positioning platform. Apple would instead be integrating their own ‘Apple Maps’ app into the system.
This is likely to have resulted from Google’s recent decision to start charging large users – businesses and corporate entities – for the use of Google Maps. This decision prompted a slew of free alternatives to be released by various competitors both big and small – Apple aren’t alone in their decision to take this particular feature in-house.
With so many internet users now accessing the web through Apple devices – everything from iPhones to iPads – it’s not yet clear if Google Maps’ decision to add waterways and canals to their database will be enough to keep up user interaction with the application. Since Apple are now pushing their own alternative on their customers, Google may find that Google Maps is about to experience a large-scale drop in user numbers.
As always, only time will tell how this will play out – we’ll bring you more news as it becomes available.