It’s easy to take free route-planning software such as Google Maps for granted; using the program, almost anyone with a computer can find a way to a destination with little effort. In addition to the many benefits of Google Maps, a savvy traveler should be aware of its accuracy limitations and content problems.
Wealth of Information
Google Maps provides the layout of roads, the locations of cities and towns, state boundaries, geographical features, restaurant reviews and satellite images. Google provides the Street View perspective, allowing you to see houses, storefronts and points of interest from a driver’s point of view. In addition, Google Maps has indoor maps of some airports, museums and other facilities.
You can share Maps with family, friends and colleagues, which makes gatherings easier to plan and coordinate. You can embed Google map information in emails and Web pages and you can share maps through your Google or Facebook account.
Multiple Transportation Modes
The Google Maps website gives you directions for trips by car, bike, foot or public transportation. The service has local bus and train schedules for many cities including bus and stop numbers and transfer points. For longer trips, Google provides airline information including ticket price and carriers that serve your destination.
Information in Google Maps may have errors. Occasionally, ambiguities and flaws in location data may produce a route that doesn’t take you to the destination you expect. Google Maps does not have up-to-the-minute information on unusual conditions, such as roads damaged by weather, blocked by street fairs or altered by recent construction work. Some remote locations may not be in Google Maps.
Use by Criminals
The convenience afforded by Google Maps is not lost on thieves. Street View images can spot belongings momentarily exposed through windows or open doors. Burglars have used Street View and satellite images to find affluent neighborhoods or homes that are easy to break into, or to identify parked cars that might contain expensive possessions.
Offensive and Shocking Material
The extra information that Google Maps provides, including Street View images and material from the public, sometimes has content Google has to remove. The Street View camera, for example, occasionally captures images of criminal behavior as it passes along country roads and through neighborhoods. Disturbing images and off-color and even racist public comments and references have appeared on the maps themselves.