• Market Crumbs

AI To Power The Next Wave Of Updates To Google Maps

Image via Google

Google gave a preview earlier this week of a handful of new features coming to Google Maps this year thanks to improvements in artificial intelligence. The most notable updates include Live View for navigating indoors and the ability to select the most eco-friendly route to get to your destination.

Live View uses AR and a technology called global localization to let Google Maps users explore indoor places that are notoriously hard to navigate such as airports, transit stations and malls. The feature allows users to hold their phone in front of them to find things such as the nearest elevator, baggage claim, check-in counter, restroom and ATM.

Live View is now available on Android and iOS in select malls in Chicago, Long Island, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle. Live View is set to roll out in select airports, malls and transit stations in Tokyo and Zurich in the coming months with additional cities to follow.

With the help of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Lab, Google Maps is also rolling out the ability to choose the route to your destination with the lowest carbon footprint. Taking into consideration factors such as road incline and traffic congestion, Google Maps will soon default to the most eco-friendly route when it has about the same ETA as the fastest route.

Eco-friendly routes will launch later this year for users in the U.S. with the feature expanding globally to follow. Users in countries that have low emissions zones such as Germany, the Netherlands, France, Spain and the UK will even get a feature this summer that alerts them if their vehicle is allowed in a particular area as a result of the zones.

Other features that roll out globally in the coming months include machine learning capabilities that suggest routes that are popular in your city, information about weather and air quality, and curbside grocery pickup information such as pickup and delivery windows, fees and order minimums.

Google's VP of Product, Google Maps Dane Glasgow reflected on the strides that have been made in the way people find their way around over the last 20 years.

"Sixteen years ago, many of us held a printout of directions in one hand and the steering wheel in the other to get around— without information about the traffic along your route or details about when your favorite restaurant was open," Glasgow wrote. "Since then, we've been pushing the boundaries of what a map can do, propelled by the latest machine learning."

Google hopes it can hold its grip on the maps space as it plans to introduce more than 100 AI-powered improvements to Google Maps this year.

Leftover Crumbs

  • Mortgage activity slows despite rate drop. With the average contract interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropping marginally to 3.33% from 3.36%, mortgage applications to purchase a home fell by 2.2% last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted index. Refinancing activity fell by 3% and now stands 32% lower than a year ago. "Many prospective homebuyers this spring are feeling the effects of higher rates and rapidly accelerating home prices," MBA economist Joel Kan said. "The housing market is in desperate need of more inventory to cool price growth and preserve affordability."

  • Pfizer says vaccine is safe for kids aged 12-15. Pfizer announced its Covid-19 vaccine demonstrated 100% efficacy and robust antibody responses in adolescents aged 12-15. "We share the urgency to expand the authorization of our vaccine to use in younger populations and are encouraged by the clinical trial data from adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15," Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said. "We plan to submit these data to FDA as a proposed amendment to our Emergency Use Authorization in the coming weeks and to other regulators around the world, with the hope of starting to vaccinate this age group before the start of the next school year."

  • Deliveroo takes a divearoo. Food delivery company Deliveroo's London IPO turned out to be a flop as shares fell as much as 30% in their debut yesterday. Deliveroo priced at a valuation of 7.6 billion pounds, which was the low end of the anticipated range, as the company's value fell by 2.28 billion pounds in the first few minutes of trading. "Investors are turning away from the work-at-home play and putting their money into the economic recovery play," Berenberg head of investment banking Fabian de Smet told Reuters. "Deliveroo got caught in the middle of a huge rotation. It was the last IPO of the old COVID world."

  • Tonal lands $1.6 billion valuation. Home fitness startup Tonal, which counts Amazon, Serena Williams and Stephen Curry as investors, has raised $250 million at a $1.6 billion valuation. Tonal saw sales grow by more than eight times last year as the company has now raised $450 million in total. Tonal will use the funds for marketing, to open more brick-and-mortar stores and to invest in logistics and manufacturing to meet demand. "The first piece of this is really scaling the business and being able to capture all the demand that we have, and preparing the company for an IPO," Tonal CEO Aly Orady said. "There's still a lot of growth ahead of us, and that's going to require us to deploy money into different marketing channels, including of course retail."

  • India has an offer for chip companies. According to Reuters, the Indian government is offering $1 billion to semiconductor companies to set up manufacturing facilities in the country. The move comes as India's "Make in India" campaign has helped it become the world's second-largest manufacturer of smartphones after China. "The government will give cash incentives of more than $1 billion to each company which will set up chip fabrication units," an Indian government official told Reuters. "We're assuring them that the government will be a buyer and there will also be mandates in the private market (for companies to buy locally made chips)."