Google today announced a notable expansion to the Google Maps Platform, one that will give ride-hailing companies and on-demand delivery services access to more location and navigational smarts.

Food delivery services saw a particularly strong surge in demand as pandemic-wary consumers avoided busy eateries and more restaurants were forced to rely on take-out services. This trend has also permeated the retail landscape, where delivery drivers are in high demand. Google now wants to pack its years of Maps experience into a service aimed at these industries.

Google launched the first incarnation of the Maps ride-sharing product back In 2018 as part of the Google Maps Platform launch. It enabled developers from ride-hailing companies like MyTaxi to integrate turn-by-turn navigation, voice guidance, real-time traffic information, rerouting, and more familiar features from the consumer version of Google Maps. This saves drivers from having to switch between the main drivers’ app where they manage all their bookings and third-party navigation apps such as Waze, Here, or Google Maps. It also promises more accurate location data for drivers, including detecting which direction they’re driving, helping ride-hailing platforms allocate the most suitable driver for each booking and improve ETAs.

From today, Google is pushing a handful of new features into limited availability.

Map data

“On-demand rides & deliveries,” as the new offering is called, ships with a feature called “routes preferred.” This builds upon Google’s existing Routes APIs and shows the rider key information, such as the driver’s ETA and anticipated route and a price estimation displayed on a Google Map. It also provides optimized routing for two-wheeled vehicles, which is particularly useful for food delivery drivers who might ride bikes and motorcycles. Drivers can also customize their routes to take the shortest or fastest route or bypass toll roads.

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The new Google Maps Platform also provides “trip & order progress,” which conveys drivers’ real-time status as they progress along their route. This gives the customer a direct view of their driver’s current location, planned route, and ETA, while also displaying live traffic conditions that might factor in.

Google said it has been testing these new features with customers for more than a year already. One of those customers is Indian on-demand delivery company Dunzo, which happens to count Google as an investor.

Above: Indian on-demand delivery company Dunzo has been testing the new Google Maps Platform, including Trip & Order Progress

On-demand transport companies can also now access a feature called “nearby drivers,” which — as its name suggests — enables them to more easily find and deploy the closest driver or courier. This is powered by what Google senior product manager Eli Danziger calls “enhanced in-app navigation,” which speedily (and automatically) updates driver locations — this helps the platform more efficiently match drivers to the job at hand.

While on-demand transport companies can develop all these features and functionalities themselves atop maps provided by third parties, tapping Google’s 15-plus years of experience in map and location technology saves them the hassle and expense of doing so.

Aside from Dunzo, Google has also been working with China’s Didi Chuxing, which has been slowly expanding its ride-hailing service into global markets, as well as Indonesia’s Gojek and Europe’s Free Now, which is a joint venture between BMW and Daimler.

Uber is also a long-time Google Maps customer, though Google couldn’t confirm whether it is using any aspect of the new on-demand rides and deliveries product.

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