Mapping a city like New York, where streets and avenues are neatly arranged in a grid, is a piece of cake. But a city in India is a different animal.
So, on March 13, internet search giant Google launched a suite of new features to make getting around the streets and lanes in India easier. From generating unique area-specific codes to using nearby landmarks to navigate to allowing users to add addresses that don’t appear on Maps yet, Google is attempting to bring order to the chaos. The company, which made Maps voice navigation available in Hindi in 2014, has now added six new local languages: Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, and Malayalam.
“While some addresses are well-defined by street names and house numbers that are easy to find, others can be long-winded and hard to locate,” the company said in a blog post. “The other reality is that millions of people and places in India are hard to locate—especially those in remote areas.”
Among other features, Google has launched “Plus codes,” which divide the geographical surface of the world into “tiled areas,” attributing a unique six-letter code and the city name to each of them. These codes can be generated, shared, and searched by anybody. Once you open the Google Maps app, all you need to do is touch and hold on a specific area to drop a location pin within the app. At the bottom, the plus code will appear. Anybody can then use this sequence to find the location on Google Maps.
Plus codes work in places that haven’t been mapped. And they don’t use country codes, so they work in disputed territories. This would especially come in handy in unique situations like “communicating the venue of a temporary event, guiding emergency services to afflicted locations, and providing an identifiable location for complicated addresses,” Google said.
Moreover, being open sourced allows other applications to incorporate Plus codes on their platforms for free.
To up the accuracy quotient further, Maps has launched yet another feature called “Smart address search.” When Maps can’t pinpoint the exact location a commuter is looking up, it will reference other information such as a nearby landmark, business, or a locality to get closer to the final destination.
Back home, the Silicon Valley behemoth draws satellite data from the US Census Bureau, the Geological Survey, and Google Street View. India banned the Street View cars nearly two years ago owing to security concerns and Google Maps in the country is mostly crowd-sourced. Users can submit new or missing addresses to the app.