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Google Maps has a safety feature you’ll hope you never need

Published Apr 19th, 2021 10:15PM EDT
Google Maps Safety
Image: Google

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Google Maps isn’t just about offering you navigation directions from point A to point B, which is the most basic feature of any navigation app. Google’s Maps is more complex than that, offering users more information about their surroundings and access to more features (sometimes too many) than most of its competitors. The app also includes various safety features to help you navigate potential life-threatening situations. During the novel coronavirus pandemic, Google tweaked the app to highlight important COVID-19 information like nearby vaccine availability, restaurants that deliver, and allow business owners to continuously update the app with real-time data about their operating hours. The company also updated the app with transit alerts and checkpoints, as well as restrictions that might be in place in various regions during the pandemic. The app can display information about crowdedness in public transit to help users practice social distancing where available.

Google Maps also offers safety alerts beyond a health crisis like the pandemic. The app will show emergency alerts from local or international authorities in case of various natural disasters. Maps supports warnings for tropical storms, earthquakes, floods, and wildfires. Each of them comes with its own icon, which will deliver more information about the crisis at hand when tapped. But a user stumbled upon an unexpected Maps safety feature on Sunday, one you’ll wish you never get to see.

Reddit user gatorsya posted the following image on Sunday, saying that “Google Maps helped me avoid this area reported with active shooting.”

Google Maps Safety Features
A user found a Google Maps safety warning for an active shooting in the area. Image source: Reddit

The screenshot shows the location of an active shooting event taking place in Austin on April 18th. The user did not provide more context about the warning. It’s unclear whether it appeared on the screen while he was browsing the area or via an app notification.

However, the feature is still useful, as it could help Maps users avoid areas with an ongoing shooting situation. The map displays the location of the incident, labeling it “Austin shooting.” A pop-up on the screen shows the time of day when the information was last updated. Two buttons allow the user to share the information with others and share location with contacts.

This type of safety warning isn’t covered in Google’s Maps support pages. They only detail the weather and natural disaster incidents that get reported in Google Maps. However, Google included warnings for active shootings in Google Maps in 2018.

The incident the Redditor noticed in Google Maps might have taken place around 11:40 AM local time. That’s when a shooting occurred in Austin, Texas, according to ABC News reporting. A suspect shot and killed three people, fleeing the scene. He was apprehended early on Monday morning. The Maps warning was still in place at 1:27 PM CT, according to the information in the screenshot the Redditor shared.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.