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Google Maps to Show Road Width, Sidewalks, Terrain Details and More With Major Redesign

The new roadways interface on Google Maps, which will be rolled out starting with select cities in the coming months. (Image: Google)

The new roadways interface on Google Maps, which will be rolled out starting with select cities in the coming months. (Image: Google)

The Google Maps redesign brings more details such as accurate representation of terrain types, as well as minute detail representation on roads, such as crosswalks and width of roads.

Google Maps has been given yet another fresh coat of paint, but this time, it is a functional one. The new update adds more colour, in a bid to offer its users more minute map details. For instance, the update to Google Maps' interface will now accurately represent the width of a road, along with the presence of sidewalks or pedestrian paths, as well as show where zebra crossings are located down a lane. Alongside this detailed road view, Google Maps' new interface update will also represent change in the way it shows overall terrain. According to Google, you will now see light grasslands and dense forests being represented by different shades, so that you know if you might stumble across a wood on your next hike. Water bodies or any other terrain will be accurately represented by solid colours on the map, the data for which comes from Google's satellite terrain data.

Sujoy Banerjee, product manager at Google Maps, notes that this is the biggest functional update to the Google Maps interface in 15 years. Explaining the process it uses for the upgrade to the Maps interface, Banerjee says, "We use computer vision to identify natural features from our satellite imagery, looking specifically at arid, icy, forested, and mountainous regions. We then analyse these features and assign them a range of colours on the HSV colour model. For example, a densely covered forest can be classified as dark green, while an area of patchy shrubs could appear as a lighter shade of green."

Banerjee notes that the upgrade to terrain textures shown on the Google Maps interface will reflect on over 220 countries shown in the navigation app, which Banerjee claims accounts for over 100 million square kilometres of land. However, when it comes to the upgrade in the road representation system, the rollout will be slower. Banerjee notes that the newly represented road details, which aim to offer accessibility benefits as well, will initially only be rolled out to London, New York City and San Francisco in the coming months. While he does not divulge any further on the post, he states that Google has "plans" to expand the detailed road representation feature in the distant future.

This is understandable, though, since minute mapping of roads to represent road width, pedestrian walkways and other details will likely take more intensive resources for each city for Google. Showing such details for regular roads on Google Maps can potentially make life much easier in many cases, particularly in India – where many roads are not marked properly. There are many noted cases where Google shows a narrow pedestrian alleyway as a motor roadway on its map, which creates confusion with regards to navigating to locations. While Google's big redesign of its interface thus sounds quite impressive, it is unlikely that cities in India will get the benefits of it right away.

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