Google Maps feature lets users check how crowded public transit is to help maintain social distancing

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Google is looking to help folks socially distance themselves with a Maps feature that lets users check how crowded public transit is in their area. 

The tool uses artificial intelligence, historical locations trends and information provided by crowdsourcing from Google Map users to predict how busy public transit will be. The crowdedness predictions will be available to more than 10,000 transit agencies in 100 countries. 

Currently, Google is piloting a feature in New York and Sydney, with the help of local transport agencies, which will let users see how full each transit car is. 

“It’s no surprise that transit ridership took a drastic plunge during the early days of the pandemic. While people are returning to public transit — with transit directions on Maps increasing 50% compared to last year in the U.S. — safety remains top of mind. That’s why we’re expanding transit crowdedness predictions to over 10,000 transit agencies in 100 countries so you’ll know if your line is likely to have lots of open seats, hit full capacity, or be anywhere in between,” Eric Tholomé, Director of Product, Google Maps, said in a blog post announcing the new feature. 

While the feature comes as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage on, Google said that even after the pandemic the feature can help people avoid taking jam-packed trains and buses.

Google is adding another feature that lets users see their transportation trends over time.  

WHY IT MATTERS 

COVID-19 cases have begun to rise again in the U.S. as the Delta variant becomes more prevalent. As of July 20, the CDC reported a total of 46,318 new cases, with a 7-day average of 37,673 cases. That’s up from June 20 which had a new daily total of 9,081 and a 7-day average of 11,470. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, social distancing has been recommended by public health agencies, in particular for those who are not vaccinated

According to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, the Delta variant accounts for 83% of all new COVID-19 cases. Individuals that are not vaccinated are at an increased risk for the virus. Walensky has said that COVID-19 is becoming “a pandemic of the unvaccinated” and noted that counties with higher vaccination rates are faring better than those with lower levels. 

As of today, 68.4% of adults in the United States have at least one vaccination. Globally 3.6 billion vaccine doses have been distributed, according to the World Health Organization. Since the pandemic started there have been more than 191 million cases worldwide. 

THE LARGER TREND 

Google has created a slew of new tools aimed at helping users find COVID-19 resources. Earlier this summer the company unveiled a digital COVID-19 vaccine certificate card for the Play app on Android devices. The new tech allows users to store and display COVID-19 test and vaccination information. 

In January, Google added a feature to help users find COVID-19 vaccination sites in the U.S. Later the company turned to India, with a feature designed to help folks find testing centers, hospital resources and vaccination sites. 

In 2020 the Mountain View company teamed up with Apple on an exposure notification API to help with contact-tracing efforts.

 

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