Google Maps: The Rise of the Virtual Roadmap

30 Apr

It’s a common sight to see, especially if you operate a motor vehicle nowadays– a driver leaning forward in their seat, phone in hand, attention divided between passing street signs and cross-referencing them with the GPS directions from their device. Travel back in time merely three decades and the motorist would be relying on traditional printed roadmaps in order to reach his destination–provided he had one for the area. Even in the mid 1990’s–as the Internet was becoming more mainstream–the best ally a driver could have had against getting lost would have been a printout of text-based directions provided by MapQuest, a pioneer in web mapping services. Drivers now utilize smartphones with access to up-to-date, digital roadmaps that feature GPS technology. These maps are not only more convient, but allow for greater accuracy and detail compared to their cumbersome and informationally ephemeral paper counterparts.

Google–one of the world’s foremost companies in terms of developing Internet-related products and services– has made significant advances in web mapping technologies. In February of 2005, Google announced the development of Google Maps, a web-based application that gave users access to global satellite images. It wasn’t until 2006 that Google Maps began featuring road maps of the USA, as well as Japan, UK, and Puerto Rico. Google now operates one of the most comprehensive web mapping services on the planet, its unprecedented degree of detail and accuracy make Google Maps the leading industry standard.

Nowadays, smartphones that feature Android operating systems,developed by Google subsidiary company Android Inc, are optimized for use with Google services. ‘Navigation’, the most popular GPS application for Android phones relies heavily on information stored in the Google Maps Database. The only comparable mobile service would be Apple Maps, developed by Apple, which requires substantial improvements in performance and accuracy. Google Navigation has voice and turn-by-turn GPS direction, as well as composite images of satellite and map views. Other competent web mapping service companies include: Bing maps, Yahoo! maps, and MapQuest.

Android smartphone GPS services rely on services from Google.

So what’s the future of Google’s mobile services? In March of 2012, Nevada passed a law that allowed the use of driverless cars on the road. Permission was granted specifically for a Toyota Prius modified by Google’s Driverless technology, The tech uses a system that drives at the speed limit and maintains its distance from other vehicles using its system of delicate sensors. Pretty soon, drivers will not only rely on Google services to provide directions to their destination–but maybe even to chauffer them there.


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