Back in January, Google rolled out a "parking difficulty" icon in Maps which, as its name suggests, explains how hard it will be to find a spot for your vehicle. While useful, it was only available in 25 US cities, including New York and San Francisco. Today, it's being expanded to a further 25 locations around the globe: Alicante, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Cologne, Darmstadt, Dusseldorf, London, Madrid, Malaga, Manchester, Milan, Montreal, Moscow, Munich, Paris, Prague, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, Sao Paulo, Stockholm, Stuttgart, Toronto, Valencia and Vancouver.
Just pop in your destination and you'll see a limited, medium or easy symbol near the bottom of the screen, next to the estimated journey time. The ratings are based on "historical parking data," according to Google, and a smidge of "machine learning magic." Armed with this information, the idea is that you'll leave a little earlier and prowl around, waiting for a free space, or drive further afield where parking might be more plentiful. Or, perhaps you'll leave the car at home and find another mode of transportation. Regardless, you won't be caught off guard anymore.
Today, Google is also introducing a new "find parking" feature. If you tap the card with the parking difficulty icon, you'll see an option to browse other streets and parking facilities. A small map visualises their locations, with each option listed underneath with an address and estimated walk time. If any of them sound suitable, you can "add parking" and start your trip. Once you've successfully parked your vehicle, Google Maps will switch to walking directions so you can easily find your destination.
For now, this feature is only available on Google Maps for Android, and in the following US cities: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas/Fort Worth, DC, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Diego, Sacramento, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis and Tampa. As always, we suspect it won't be too long before the feature is rolled out more widely. After all, parking can be a problem in any major city, and regardless of your smartphone operating system of choice.