Google City Tours Gets Several Significant Updates

Including real walking directions and My Maps integration

  A path generated by Google City Tours
Last summer Google introduced a new service dubbed City Tours which generated a tour of various attractions near a location within walking distance of the starting point. It debuted in Google Labs as the service still had some rough edges, but it proved useful enough to become quite popular. It had a few major drawbacks, though some of which have since been remedied by the dev team which is now providing an update on their progress.

"Six months ago we launched City Tours on Google Labs with the goal of making vacation planning as easy as searching the web," Trevor Johnston, software engineer from Google Zurich, wrote. "Though City Tours is still in Google Labs, the purpose was clear and the demo was popular, so we've continued to work on it over the past few months to take into account the hundreds of suggestions from users all across the globe."

The biggest update and certainly the most welcome one is the addition of actual walking directions giving users the exact path they must take to reach their destinations. Up till now the tool would plot out a straight-line path between the locations and leave the users to figure out exactly how to get from one point to the other. This led to sometimes less-than-helpful suggestions with paths going over rivers or other obstacles.

Now, City Tours imports the data from Google Maps to plot the path and takes into account several factors like road conditions, where the bridges are and others. At the same, it still considers things like operating hours when suggesting locations and the emphasis is still on minimizing the distance between attractions.

Another new feature is the possibility to import saved maps from My Maps, another Google service which allows users to pick points of interests on a map, for example, in advance of a trip. Now, these maps can be used in City Tours to generate a travel plan based on them. There are a bunch of other smaller updates and improvements. Google says that City Tours is still a Labs project and will be for a while, but it will continue to work towards taking advantage of the tools and services the company already offers, while also improving the original features and adding new ones.

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By    29 Dec 2009, 08:47 GMT