This genius Google Maps location sharing feature just went live

Google has quietly updated its location sharing feature in Google Maps, including details that might calm your friends and family's fears if you suddenly disappear from the map. Location sharing has been a feature of Google Maps since last year, allowing users to selectively share their current position with their contacts.

That way, rather than sending out regular ETA updates, users can simply open Google Maps and see for themselves where you are. It's a useful tool, not least if you want to keep track on where grandparents or children are located in real-time. However, if those people suddenly dropped off the grid, there was no way of distinguishing whether that was because their phone battery died or something more nefarious had happened.

Google is addressing that uncertainty today. In a new update to Google Maps, spotted by one Reddit user rman18, the app now also shares battery status along with the current position. If you check the location of a contact, you'll also see what percentage their battery is at too.

The figure is updated when location itself is updated, and appears to be a direct reflection of the battery level shown on the user's phone. There also doesn't appear to be a way to turn it off. If you share location, you also share battery level details.

It's a small change, but a potentially important one, depending on how you use location sharing. If you're keeping an eye on less tech-savvy users, for example, it might be a good reminder to tell them they need to plug their phones in, lest they unexpectedly go offline.

Google has been revamping many of its maps features over the past few months, with more expected to come as 2018 continues. Back in June, a host of new personalization features were launched, including streamlining the process of locating restaurants, cafes, and other places to eat and drink. The Explore tab, meanwhile, also gained new features, and Google promised better suggestions that are tailored to each user by turning to AI and personalization in its recommendation engine.