3 Features of Google Driving Directions You Probably Never Knew

Leon 10-07-2009

We know your problems. We know that if Aunt Martha sees your red sedan pass by her front porch, she will FORCE you to come in and try her lasagna. We know that you hate Toll Road #4339 Google Maps sends you on every time you want to go somewhere.


That is why I have compiled a list of 3 handy dandy features of Google Maps that you may not have known about – features that will help you make it through the day without hitting a pedestrian due to your frustrating experiences like the ones pictured above.

Google Driving Directions – Drag and Drop Routes

For those who really want to customize how they get from Point A to Point B, Google Maps has a tool that allows you to drag the route they have provided in certain directions say, because you know that the driving directions given will require you to traverse a heavily bogged down construction zone. New directions are provided on the spot, as if you had just searched for them. Here’s an example.

In light of the Los Angeles Lakers’ recent NBA Championship, here is a set of directions from the Staples Center (where they play) to The Walt Disney Concert Hall, both in Los Angeles:

3 Features of Google Driving Directions You Probably Never Knew dragroute1

Now if I decided that I wanted to go on the Harbor Freeway, CA 110 for some crazy reason, I could drag the route:


3 Features of Google Driving Directions You Probably Never Knew dragroute2

Here is a side by side comparison of the driving directions. They are automatically calculated and changed as you drag your route. Pretty neat, huh?

3 Features of Google Driving Directions You Probably Never Knew dragroute4

One thing you may need take note of is that your constant dragging back and forth may be cumbersome to sort through. You may find that the final directions you obtain after fooling around with the path is an infinite loop. Although this is a very handy feature, make sure to double check that all of the directions are feasible.


Congestion Overlays

It is every traveler’s worst nightmare to run into accidents, construction, congestion, or an overall slowing down of traffic. This is most likely why Google Driving Directions has provided an extremely useful overlay of your map that describes current driving conditions, with a full blown legend that houses live traffic updates along roads.

The only foreseeable downside to this feature is that it mostly only provides these overlays on larger roads, highways and interstates. Then again, larger roads are the ones that we worry the most about.

3 Features of Google Driving Directions You Probably Never Knew traffic1

I’m sure all of you can read, so I won’t go into detail to explain what the colors mean. Certain icons mean certain things, for instance in the above screenshot, the warning sign denotes some type of accident or stoppage due to hazardous conditions, whereas a small man shoveling coal (or at least that’s what it looks like) denotes construction. A red circle with a line through it means that the current lane is closed.


Let’s say you have a planned event, and you would like to know what the traffic conditions will most likely be like at that time. No problem! There is a feature that allows users to choose the day of the week as well as the time of day, and Google Maps will provide a prediction based on aggregate data it has compiled previously. This should give users a better idea of what to expect on certain roads during rush hour or things of that nature:

3 Features of Google Driving Directions You Probably Never Knew traffic2

Search Box Customizations

Although technically more than one “feature,” there are certain things to know about the direction search box that can prove to be useful when finding directions. Believe it or not, I have had more than one friend come up to me and ask me if there was a way to add multiple “checkpoints” to stop by on along their trip. It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you take time to read:

3 Features of Google Driving Directions You Probably Never Knew sb11


If we should decide to add a final destination (no pun intended), we can simply click the link and hooray, we have successfully set up segmented directions for a cross country road trip to the Empire State Building:

3 Features of Google Driving Directions You Probably Never Knew sb2

Google Driving directions also has a dropdown menu for you to choose by what medium would like to travel through. This service may be limited because most of it is still in beta, but certain locations DO give users the freedom to choose. As of now, it is limited to “by car,” “by public transit,” or “by walking”:

3 Features of Google Driving Directions You Probably Never Knew sb3

Finally, if we click “show options”, we can choose to have Google Driving directions search for routes that avoid toll roads or highways, or both:

3 Features of Google Driving Directions You Probably Never Knew sb4

So, there you have it. We hope that wherever you go, you drive safely and are aware of your surroundings. Google Driving Directions is an extremely powerful branch of Google Maps – it provides users with a lot of freedom and flexibility to roam around and explore new areas without actually going there.

This article only provides a few of the handy features that Google Driving Directions encompasses, but there is so much more to learn about. Check out other features of Google Maps 10 Lesser-Known Features in Google Maps for Android Google Maps has some amazing features that most people don't know about. Read More , as well as their new mobile phone feature Google Maps Adds GPS Tracking To Mobile Phones Read More !

Has Google Maps helped you map your transit route or get your out of stuck traffic? Let us know how you have used it, in the comments.

Related topics: Automotive Technology, Geotagging, Google Maps, Maps.

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  1. J Hawkins
    September 29, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    What is the driving time based on? What would 1 day 10 hours mean? Driving eight hours a day or 24 hours?

  2. Ray
    July 17, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    Anyone know a way to figure out what the half way point is for any given one way trip?

  3. Eric
    July 12, 2009 at 7:41 am

    While this post is about Google Maps, I have found one good reason (OK, two) to use Microsoft Bing for directions now:(1) you can search by building name if you don't have the street address (for example, it accepted Pray-Harrold Hall, Ypsilanti, MI for a college lecture hall at Eastern Michigan U instead of needing a street address), and (2) Bing also lets you sometimes see a street view, birds-eye view that you can actually *rotate*, or a thumbnail of a storefront if it's a business... Which users can add to as well as write reviews for. While I still use Google Maps/Directions a lot, Bing has added some nice features. Plus, you can search Bing directly with a single click from an Outlook address!

  4. Dude
    July 11, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    The avoid highways feature was very handy in germany where we wanted to skip the autobahn for the scenic route.

  5. Leon
    July 11, 2009 at 10:09 am

    Because they don't read

  6. me
    July 11, 2009 at 6:13 am

    how could anyone miss these obvious features?