Google Maps' new Driving Mode: No need to type a destination

An update in the pipeline for Google Maps predicts where you want to go and provides navigation information without your having to key in a destination.

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Nicole Cozma/CNET

Google is rolling out a feature in Google Maps on Android that automatically provides navigation information without the user having to type in a destination.

The new feature, called Driving Mode, should make Google Maps navigation features easier to use for drivers who know where they're going, and thus don't need Maps' directions, but still want information about road blocks, traffic jams, and ETAs.

To get this information currently requires the user to type in each destination manually, which can be a hassle when you're on the move or on a tight schedule.

First spotted by Android Police, Driving Mode makes use of location history and previous web searches to form an educated guess about where the user is driving and give traffic updates and arrival times while you're on the move.

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The feature appears in Google Maps version 9.19.0 for Android, an early version that may eventually make its way to Google Play.

For now, Driving Mode is difficult to activate but if the user succeeds, it showcases the convenience of Google predicting a destination and offers an incentive to keep Maps active at all times when driving.

It probably won't hurt Google Maps for Android Auto on the in-vehicle infotainment front, as competition heats up with Apple CarPlay.

Whether the feature will make its way to iOS remains to be seen and, given it's a preview release, there are no guarantees whether and when it will make it to Android either -- that is, until Google announces the feature.

Other features in the works for Maps on Android include the return of the mute toggle to the foreground of the interface for turn-by-turn voice guidance. The mute option now sits between the Search and Compass icons.

The update also includes a new settings screen for the Timeline, a feature that presents places visited in the past. The settings screen offers a new way to control what is seen and collected in Timeline, whereas previously the only choice was to delete location history.

There are also hints that Google may be working on integrating a new to-do list feature that would allow the user to upload a to-do list. As Android Police speculates, it could be Google's answer to enabling multiple destinations.

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