Google has been rolling out a new feature called “Driver Mode“, so far available only on the Android version of Google Maps. Its aim is showing the best route to where you want to go… without you having to tell. Is that even possible? Is this some attempt of a parlor trick? Yes and No. While Google seems to be trying to pull off an Apple out of the hat (by positioning an interesting new idea in a somewhat over-glorified, alluring manner)… there’s actually some real potential for usefulness, here.
When will this “Driver Mode” feature be available?
The new “Driver Mode” feature has been rolling out since the middle of January 2016. Initially it will only be available on restricted countries: Great Britain, Ireland, United States, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore and United Arab Emirates. Early on it will only be available in English, but soon enough it should spread to worldwide coverage in multiple languages. Since the main focus on this feature is minimizing the need for you to interact with your phone while driving, Google Maps will let you create a home screen shortcut in your phone called “Google Maps Driving”, so you can activate it with a simple tap (possibly also with a voice command).
Does Driver Mode really guess where you want to drive next?
This predictive mode is not so much sorcery as it is a clever use of the information available from your phone’s sensors and data. By keeping tab on your driving routines, Google essentially learns where you usually go at a time of the day. This pattern recognition lets Driver Mode know fairly accurately that you’ll probably want to drive to work early in the morning, and it will fetch up the best routes for you by checking local traffic reports. The program also looks out for recent searches for a specific address, so if you search for an address and immediately open Driver Mode, it will predict that you probably want to go there. It’s actually a very clever way to bridge the gap between your probable destination and the best way to drive there, deduced from real-time traffic data. Naturally it won’t always work (since we assume it can’t read one’s mind), but if you understand how it functions and work with that, it should turn out to be a very welcome feature to many users.
How far can Google expand this feature later on?
Initially, Driver Mode will include a few neat reports asides from pointing out the best routes and ETA. It will also point out nearby gas prices, for example. Later on, the sky is the limit as they keep adding tools to the arsenal. For extra layers of information, maybe it will allow users to point out data on the fly, such as police radar sightings, accident reports, and other such observations that can help improve the life of other drivers in the area. That is clearly the big focus of Driver Mode: Google is trying to position Google Maps as a technological co-pilot that you’ll want to keep close to the driving seat at all times. So far, so good… and we’re looking forward to see how well this feature delivers, in the real world.