When Google talks, people listen. That is why 3,000 people crowded into a ballroom on the first day of SXSW to hear Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of consumer services, give her keynote. Her talk focused mostly on Google Maps for Mobile, and didn't do much more than outline the new features on the service. Even so, it should give serious pause to all of the companies currently offering location-based services, from Yelp to Foursquare. And it should give dedicated GPS vendors nightmares.
Google Mobile for Maps recently hit more than 150 million users, adding more than 50 million users since last summer. "Forty percent of all Maps usage is mobile," Mayer said. In fact, there have been days this year where mobile usage was actually greater than the desktop usage for the application.
Google Maps has always had driving directions, but by adding Street View and turn-by-turn navigation, it is fast becoming the go-to source for directions. "People drive more than 35 million miles a day while being assisted by Google Maps Navigation," Mayer said.
And those directions are becoming much more dynamic. The Route Around feature, for example, presents users with three routes to a destination and then overlays current traffic patterns. Users can select the route with the least traffic; Google said recently that Android users have the option to be automatically routed around traffic jams. This kind of real-time traffic advice is something for which GPS vendors like Garmin and Magellan traditionally charge users a monthly fee—Google offers it for free.
According to Mayer, the Route Around feature saves users two years of drive time every day, or about 12 million miles per year.