• Google used location history data to determine when public places are busiest
  • This is based on data stored between March and October 2020
  • Searches for outdoor locations were higher than pre-pandemic levels

Ahead of the pandemic-clouded holiday season, Google Maps unveiled a guide to help users avoid crowds at the supermarkets, restaurants and coffee shops.

The new feature could help users practice social distancing by choosing less crowded hours as suggested by Google Maps. “These tools help you know in advance when places are going to be busy so you can save precious time and also social distance,” a Google Maps blog post read.

Grocery stores across the country are the least crowded at 8 a.m. Mondays and busiest on Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m. Coffee shops have a bustling crowd at 10 a.m. Saturdays while least crowded at 4 p.m. Tuesdays.

Restaurants run empty on Tuesdays around 3 p.m. and do brisk business around 6 p.m. Fridays.

Google came up with these suggestions after analyzing location history data from March to October from U.S. users who had their location settings turned on.

Google Maps also showed a surprisng trend of the emergence of cycling as a preferred mode of transport in the country after the pandemic. Public transport use has declined by a half but driving is still the most preferred means of transport. Google Maps Google Maps Photo:

As the weather becomes colder, Google Maps is seeing a high search volume for outdoor locations like parks, waterfalls, beaches and gardens within driving distance. This is much higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Google Maps has already integrated a feature that showed users COVID-19 hotspots around them. Tapping the "Covid-19" option in the layers feature on top of the screen will show maps using the latest 7-day average of cases per 100,000 people in areas being viewed. A label will tell users whether the number of Covid-19 cases in a particular spot is trending up or down, Maps product manager Sujoy Banerjee said.

Google Maps will now display areas of Covid-19 infection, the search giant says Google Maps will now display areas of Covid-19 infection, the search giant says Photo: AFP / Fabrice COFFRINI