October 2, 2015

Walk, Bike, or Drive: Google Maps Will Show the Way!

Photo Courtesy of: pcmag.com

By Lauren C.

Are you someone who is frequently late? It seems that no matter how meticulously certain people plan their day, they just can’t get to where they need to be on time. If you’re someone who struggles to get out the door in the morning, only to find yourself ten minutes late to the final destination, you may benefit from the new update to Google Maps for the iOS phones.

Now, the Maps app for Apple smartphones compares and contrasts the fastest means of arriving at your destination, regardless of which way you go. Seem to get stuck driving in that morning traffic? You can look and see the difference between travel times for all transportation types, which includes the train, the bus, biking paths, and walking routes. The four methods of transportation will show up side by side on your screen so you can see how long each one will take to get to from your point of origin all at the same time.

On their blog, Google stated that “anyone who had been stuck in city traffic knows that the fastest way from A to B is not always by car, and that public transit, biking, or even walking can be a better choice.”  Their blog went on to say that “Google Maps for mobile will provide you with the most detailed and useful information so you can make the best decision-whether that means picking up your keys, bike helmet or bus pass.”

So the cat is out of the bag-Google wants us to use alternative methods of travelling if possible. Is this for our own convenience, or is there an alternative motive at play here?

Google Wants You to Get Moving

This update probably coincides with the effort that Google has made lately to encourage people to walk or take a bus rather than drive unnecessarily. Google Maps’ initial addition of walking, biking, and transport options to its directions encouraged people to approach travel differently.

For example, Street View changed many users’ perspectives on the way we behave, according to a recent BBC article. One tourist in France explained that seeing the great shots from Street View encouraged him to stop using guidebooks and start “touring the streets around the hotel where he would be staying.” He explained that, “Its (Street View) definitely changed the way I would approach travel…I look at Street View first to see where I’m going, what’s around me.”

This is only one example of a recent Google endeavor that encourages a change in user behavior.

Google’s Mission Statement and Their Corporate Philosophy

Google Maps’ push to allow users to compare and contrast how long it takes to get somewhere based on what means of transportation they’re taking is another way for the search engine giant to encourage alternative methods of travel. Considering Google’s new pet projects and philosophy on innovation, it’s no surprise that they are encouraging this type of behavior from users.

One critic of Google stated that, “Google’s refusal to think of itself as a corporation is not irrational. Rooted in academia, it sees itself as a noble academic enterprise-spanning computer science, artificial intelligence, information science, and linguistics-that just happens to make money on the side.” The company’s stated mission is to, “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

In other words, Google sees itself not as a corporation or a typical business. It sees itself as an arbiter or good morale, and wants to shape us accordingly to a world view it deems fit. In their opinion, encouraging more of us to take the bus, or walk instead of drive a car fits into the goals set out by their mission statement. Google is teaching us to be good stewards of the earth, and good citizens by being an active part of the community around us.

Some find this self-inflated corporate ego intrusive and creepy, while others find it refreshing. Regardless, it explains the recent decisions made by Google to encourage different methods of travel.

What do you think about the new Google Maps iOS update? Do you believe Google has a hidden agenda in encouraging new user behavior? Let us know in your comments!

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