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Debunked: No, Google Maps won’t show you pop-up ads while you’re driving

Published Jul 9th, 2024 6:50AM EDT
Google Maps reviews
Image: Google

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The worst place to see an ad of any kind is a navigation app like Google Maps. And the worst time to see such an ad is while using the app to navigate. Ads that pop up mid-drive are hardly helpful or safe for the driver. The last thing you want to do is pay attention to some advertisement on the screen inviting you to add a detour to your trip to visit that location. I don’t know about you, but I’d be furious. I’d probably go out of my way to avoid that business, even if it were a company I actually liked.

That’s the kind of experience one Google Maps user seems to have had earlier this week, posting a screenshot of the ad that appeared on their screen while driving. But just as user backlash began to bubble, Google quickly responded to the complaint, saying that pop-up ads do not exist. Promoted pins in navigation are the type of ads that drivers might stumble upon while driving, but only if they tap on them.

Google Maps is a free Google product because ads pay for it. Google has to find ways to monetize its products, even navigation apps. Promoted pins are a way to do it.

X user Anthony Higman shared the following image showing such a promoted pin in Google Maps. He said that the ad popped up as he passed it:

The pop-up blocks a part of the screen, telling the user it’s a sponsored message. The driver can add the stop to their navigation or cancel. Again, this is an annoying experience to have in Google Maps. Your eyes should mostly be on the road rather than reading what’s on the screen.

Higman said he didn’t type anything about gas or food to prompt the appearance of the ad.

Google responded, saying that promoted pins aren’t new. But they should only expand if the user taps on them:

Hi Anthony, Promoted pins in navigation are not new – they let people see relevant ads for businesses like gas stations, restaurants, and stores along their route. To avoid driver distraction, these ads do not pop up, expand only if they’re tapped on, and disappear quickly after a short time.

The Google Maps user provided more details about his experience. Higman says he didn’t tap anything. The promoted pin popped up during driving and stayed on the screen for 45 seconds to a minute.

Google said this isn’t the expected behavior of the feature, suggesting that it might be some sort of glitch it has to fix. Or maybe Google was performing some kind of testing. Whatever the case, seeing ads while using a navigation app is certainly annoying.

As Android Police points out, Google might borrow location-based ads from Waze, its other popular navigation app. But those ads appear on the screen while the vehicle is stationary.

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.