Google Maps has become one of Google’s most popular applications and new user-created maps are being unveiled every day, turning what started as a simple route planner into one of the most sophisticated mapping suites in the world.
The first route planner software for vehicles was wildly popular and Google has extended it into a number of other modes of travel. The company rolled out walking maps in 2008, followed quickly by a bicycling route planner and maps of public transit. Google has also has produced maps of the Moon, Mars and deep space as well as its comprehensive Google Earth application.
Individuals and companies have used the route planner software to underlay tens of thousands of maps charting everything from hurricane tracking to restaurant reviews.
One of the most popular additions to Google’s route planner software is its Street View feature.
It is a massive database of photographs taken by specially-equipped Google cars that gives the user the feeling of walking down the streets of their city, or a location anywhere on earth that the camera-equipped Google cars have scanned.
One caution with Google Maps or any route planner software is that the satellite images used to produce the maps can be months or years out of date and may not show new roads or buildings. This danger is more acute when using a smartphone or other mobile device that gives directions on the go. There are many stories of people driving into ponds or getting stuck on meandering goat tracks because they blindly followed the route planner without paying enough attention to the actual road.
The maps can be a money-saver also. Users can download maps of foreign cities and attractions before they travel and save themselves the high cost of international roaming data costs.