Google Street View adds 250,000 miles in biggest update yet

Thousands of miles of road in 17 countries now have 360-degree views in Google Maps, and online viewers can get a look inside Catherine Palace in Russia, along with other added landmarks.

Google has given Street View its biggest update yet, adding more than 250,000 miles of roads across 17 countries worldwide.

The Google Maps feature, which gives a 360-degree photographic view of surroundings, has been extended in the UK, as well as in Macau, Singapore, Sweden, the US, Thailand, Taiwan, Italy, Denmark, Norway and Canada, according to a blog post on Thursday by Street View program manager Ulf Spitzer.

Google Maps Update
New coverage of the Taroko Gorge, Taroko National Park, Taiwan.

In addition, Google is doubling the number of its special collections, which give a look inside well-known locations such as NASA's Kennedy Space Center and the pyramids of Teotihuacan. It will cover more landmarks in South Africa, Japan, Spain, France, Brazil and Mexico, among others.

"Users can now explore new places directly in Google Maps, including parks, city centres, castles and tourist attractions like Catherine Palace and Ferapontov Monastery in Russia, the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taiwan, or Stanley Park in Vancouver," Spitzer said.

Google is constantly adding to its Maps features — it added views of the Great Barrier Reef last month, for example, and has also revealed plans to add full 3D capabilities to Google Earth. These features are designed to help keep users wedded to the service and providing data to Google.

The depth of functionality in Google Maps was highlighted after Apple dropped the service as native in iPhone 5, with disappointed users criticising the Apple alternative as lacking in comprehensiveness and riddled with mistakes .

As part of its Maps effort, Google offers APIs to developers and business customers to integrate features into their products. On Thursday, the company said it has added time zone functionality into its Maps API, which returns information on the local time at a particular location.