Finding your way in India with landmarks

Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 5:10 PM


In the past few months, you may have noticed that Google Maps directions have been using some new phrases such as "Take the 2nd right" rather than just "Turn right". We're using phrases like this because they're natural concepts that relate to the way we think about navigation in real life. They're the way a friend might give you directions. This week we're taking this concept further for users in India, using landmarks to help drivers get their bearings.

During a trip to the Google engineering office in Bangalore, our driving directions engineers got a chance to learn firsthand how drivers navigate in India. We discovered that street signs or names tend to be less important than landmarks such as civic buildings and gas stations. A friend giving you directions might tell you to "Turn left at the school" or "Go past the convenience store". In India, we have a lot of great landmark data available through user-entered "Points of Interest" in Google Map Maker.

Our new algorithm determines which of these landmarks are most useful for navigation, based on visibility, importance, and closeness to the turns that you're making. We now combine landmark data, counted turns ("the 2nd right"), intersection names, and road names, and try to use whatever information is most relevant and useful. We're using landmarks in two ways: to identify where users need to turn, and to provide confirmation that they're on the right track. You can read more about the research that went into this feature on the Official Google Blog.

Landmarks now appear in both desktop and mobile directions. As a result, we hope that our users in India will have an easier time getting to their destinations using directions in Google Maps -- and you can improve our directions by adding more POIs in Google Map Maker!