Google Maps gets a local upgrade with new safety features

Google announced a number of search and AI updates at this year’s Search On event, one of which was a new way to access information for local communities with Maps. 

The new updates – which were unveiled at the event on September 29 – are designed to help make communities around the world safer, more sustainable and easier to find on Maps. 

The first of the three is the new wildfire layer. 

The feature builds on the wildfire boundary map Google released last year to help users in the US comprehend the size and location of a wildfire from their smartphone screen. 

Now this information will be available as a layer in Google Maps. The layer offers frequent updates on multiple fires, along with links to resources from governments, including phone numbers and evacuation details.

Google will also provide information about the fire’s containment, the number of acres burnt and when details were last reported. 

The feature will be available globally this week for Android users and in October for iOS and desktop users. US users will see the most detail, followed by Australia in the coming months. 

Google is also expanding its Tree Canopy Insights tool to more than 100 new cities in 2022, including London. 

Using aerial imagery and AI, Tree Canopy Insights flags places in a city that are at the greatest risk of rapidly rising temperatures – or “heat islands”. 

Heat islands bring with them public health concerns, including poor air quality and dehydration, and disproportionately impact low-income communities. With this tool, local governments can see where they need to plant trees to provide shade in these areas. 

Finally, there’s the new Address Maker app. 

The Address Maker creates addresses for people and businesses that won’t have them using Google’s open-source Plus Codes system.

Addresses for towns and villages can be created in weeks right on an Android phone, putting communities on the map, adding missing roads, and making it easier for individuals to get an address to vote, open a bank account, apply for a job or get a package delivered.

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