Google Maps is working on helping you deal with parking your car. Last month, Google focused on what happens after you arrive at your destination by upgrading Maps with tools to help you remember where your car is parked and how much time is left on the meter. This month they’re looking at giving you parking information that helps you plan your route before you leave. Android Police reports that Google Maps v9.51, currently in beta, tells you if there’s on-site parking at your destination and whether it’s free or paid.
Here’s how it currently works. The details page that appears when you tap on the destination marker includes a line directly under the address that indicates whether the destination has free or paid customer parking. The cost of paid parking is not given.
Google has also added an “On-site” indicator to the parking difficulty information that appears next to time and distance under a map displaying a marked route. In its current form, the parking difficulty indicators are Easy, Medium, Limited and On-site. This means that if you plan on on-site parking and arrive to find it filled, you won’t know about the availability of alternative parking in the area. You can work around this by entering an address near where you want to go that is unlikely to have on-site parking.
The folks at Android Police tore down the v9.51 APK and found evidence that Google has plans for at least one additional improvement to the parking information available in Google Maps. Android Police cautions readers that ideas about future plans that are based on what’s found in an APK are speculative.
Google appears to be working on a feature that will allow users to plan their trip around parking lots that are near their destination. Google Maps will search for parking lots, allow the driver to choose one, and give an estimated walking time from the lot to the driver’s destination. This could be immensely helpful for people traveling to locations in downtown urban areas.
Another feature that appears to be in the planning stage has nothing to do with parking but could be useful nevertheless. At some point in the future, Maps may include a histogram that shows traffic density as a function of time along a planned route. Currently, Google Maps gives an estimated trip time that takes traffic density into account but it doesn’t break out time information for segments of the trip. Knowing the time delay for traffic choke points along well-known routes can give experienced commuters valuable information about which route is the better option.
One of the nice things about Google is that they never stop trying to make their apps better by adding functions and tools that solve the kinds of problems people often have. Google certainly has ulterior motives for improving their apps, but they work hard to give their users helpful stuff and they give it to them for free.