Google Maps gets ‘Area Busyness’ feature to help users navigate during the holidays

With the holiday season approaching, Google has updated Maps with a couple of new features that build upon the app’s vast wealth of existing information to show which areas are busier than usual and help travelers and shoppers navigate malls, airports and transit stations with a new directories section. For those in the US, the app’s pickup feature will now work across more stores, while dining spots are getting a price range section based on user feedback.

Google Maps already lets people know about the busy hours of a point of interest with its live busyness feature. It’s now building upon that tool to inform users about busy places and neighborhoods as traveling and shopping for the holiday season ramps up around the world.

The Area Busyness feature, as Google calls it, should help users avoid getting stuck in jam-packed areas and situations while being equally useful for those looking for a lively crowd. Google’s update to the app, released on iOS and Android, also adds a new directory tab for places like airports and shopping malls. The directory section displays store types by category, with businesses and their detailed info (timings, floor, rating) listed under each category.

While the aforementioned updates will reach the app’s global audience, those in the US are getting two additional features. One of these is an improved ‘Pickup’ feature that lets grocery shoppers track their orders and share their arrival time with the store in advance. Google says the feature, introduced in Oregon earlier this year, now works in over 2,000 Kroger Family store locations in 30+ states.

Lastly, dining spots in the US will now display a price range to help users decide according to budget. This data is gathered from user contributions, and Google says it’s also rolling out a simpler process for getting detailed reviews to inform visitors if a restaurant offers amenities like outdoor seating, delivery and curbside pickup.