The Google Maps Motorcycle Route Option Needs to Be Global

Google is doing initial tests for the route guidance option in the most densely motorcycle-populated area in the world with no word on whether it’s US-bound.

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Google Maps first rolled out a motorcycle route option — joining the car, public transport and pedestrian options — in India this past December but just recently added South East Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. And as the biggest market for motorcycles, the move makes sense, but Google has yet to confirm the feature riders in the United States.

The route guidance in the motorcycle option displays roads that are motorcycle friendly: possible routes cars aren’t allowed to take but bikes can and ignoring streets and avenues that aren’t. Crucially, the guidance takes into account looking at a map and continuously reading driving instructions on a motorcycle is near impossible to do safely. Instead, the Google Maps uses the current street view information and dictates directions by calling out landmarks and buildings rather than street names, which also helps with unmarked roads and smaller streets.

Countries like India and other South East Asian countries view motorcycles as much more than leisure vehicles — they’re practical tools, family transport, grocery-getters, commuters and Google Maps motorcycle route caters to that. But in the United States, motorcycle culture is wildly different from the way the rest of the world treats two-wheeled transportation. In the States, we have our own year-round riders and commuters, but motorcycles, in general, are viewed as luxury items. In cities like Bankok and Hanoi, motorcycles are the only realistic option for anyone to get around, so the Google Maps motorcycle route guidance is in the right place to be pushed to its limits.

The American market, as relatively laid back as it is, would welcome the feature with open arms. Whether it’s a daily commute you’ve made 1000 times or your first time in a new city, a weekend ride up into the mountains or canyons, getting instructions based on landmarks is unbelievably helpful no matter where you are. Google, don’t hold out on us, we ride too.

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