Google Maps rolls out new features for holiday travelers and isolaters alike

Despite the pandemic keeping many people at home during the holidays, there are still many who will be hitting the road and travelling to see family. Today, Google announced a number of new features for Google Maps, and some of those are geared toward those who will be traveling for the holidays, while others are aimed at those who are staying put.

The new features for the former group include several updates to the COVID layer in Google maps. In the coming weeks, the COVID layer will begin showing a count of all-time detected cases in an area and surface links about COVID from local authorities. The idea, it seems, is to let users know what a local region's restrictions and rules might be so they can plan accordingly.

Google Maps will also begin showing crowdedness information for public transit, which is useful information if you're trying to get from point A to point B while avoiding crowds as much as possible. This feature will be going live on Android and iOS around the world, and it seems it will cover bus, train, and subway lines.

In addition, Google is launching a preview of new updates to Google Assistant's driving mode, which at first will only be available to Android users in the US, with the only supported language being English. Driving mode essentially lets Google Assistant take over for a lot of your phone's capabilities, whether that's using voice to place calls, send texts, or play media. You can even have Google Assistant read out text messages you receive or tell you who's calling when receiving a call.

Google says that driving mode can be activated in two ways – either by tapping the pop up that appears when you begin navigating to a destination, or by going into Assistant settings, selecting "Getting around," and then selecting "Driving mode" to turn it on.

Finally, we have a new Google Maps feature for those who don't plan to go anywhere for the holidays, as the app will now show the live status of takeout and delivery orders you place through the Google Maps app. This feature will be going live in both the iOS and Android versions of Google Maps in the US, Canada, Germany, Australia, Brazil, and India, so keep an eye out for it in the coming weeks.