Developments in Google Maps
Although this is not hot-off-the-presses news, I've been wanting to mention some developments in Google Maps.
I love that Google is constantly trying to think outside the box and develop new tools for users. It's true that sometimes they execute a plan without seriously thinking it through. You may recall the controversy brought about by Google's Street View for instance. Or they're more recent mistake of information sharing via Google Buzz. Despite some of these errors in judgment, Google also just makes cool stuff sometimes.
In the Maps department they have, of course, the driving directions which I generally find accurate and easy to use. In addition, they have added walking, biking and public transportation directions. Google is still working the kinks out of the biking portion and tell users clearly that the directions are in beta. As more people use the service and comment on the effectiveness (and safety) of directions these are likely to improve significantly. What's interesting is the difference between their walking directions and biking directions. The service takes things like traffic and one-way streets into account when giving bikers directions, helping two-wheeled pedestrians avoid heavy traffic and hostile automobiles.
Google also gives directions based on local public transportation. This reminds me of the old Google. The one whose mantra was "don't be evil." Not only does the service provide accurate information about local buses and light rail schedules, it also calculates the dollar amount you're saving by taking public transportation rather than driving. Sometimes the cost of driving is less but often you'll find that taking the bus can save you a bit of cash (in addition to providing a bit of time for quality reading!). Google also offers a brief explanation of how they calculate the driving cost which is nice to know.
I always appreciate a company or business that makes a quality product and then stops to consider how it could be made even more effective for their users. By taking into account the various ways people move from place to place, Google is able to create a great tool and, in a small way, encourage users to rely on multiple forms of transportation.