With the summer holidays coming up, I’m looking forward to picnics, visiting cafes and of course, road trips. My family and I will be enjoying a scenic drive from Sydney to Hobart. It’s a nice, long distance trip and of course, getting there is half the fun. Along the way, there are all sorts of places to explore: parks, restaurants and hotels in Melbourne. And of course everyone needs a few pit stops, especially with two small kids.

Today, we’re launching Google Maps Navigation in Australia and New Zealand, which means getting to Hobart this year (and exploring along the way) just got a lot easier. Google Maps Navigation is a feature of Google Maps for Mobile that provides voice-guided turn by turn directions in real time. That means that instead of printing out your directions in advance, or having your co-pilot read aloud from list of directions, you can use your Android smartphone to guide you there directly.

Some of you may have already taken advantage of driving directions in Google Maps for Mobile. Google Maps Navigation builds on that by combining the best of Google Maps for mobile, Google Search, and a host of unique capabilities only available on smartphones, like GPS, compass, text-to-speech technology, a permanent Internet connection, and the ability to search by voice. How?
  • Search instead of type. Maps Navigation is integrated with Google Search, as well as Google Voice Search. That means you don’t need to know your destination’s exact address, or even its name. You can search instead: try saying “art gallery sydney” instead of “Museum of Contemporary Art”
  • See where you’re going. You don’t have to download imagery or data or store it on your phone. It’s always connected to the Internet, which means you can access satellite views of your route or preview your destination in Street View.
  • Explore along the way. Once you’re on your route, you can search for anything along your route: petrol stations, restaurants, museums, hotels, parks, anything you can think of. Some common searches, like petrol stations, are built in as layers you can turn on and off. Because Google Maps Navigation is integrated with Google Search, you can search your surroundings just as easily as you search the Internet.
  • Steer clear of traffic. Maps Navigation displays live traffic conditions on top of your route: red means heavy, yellow means slow, and green means clear sailing. If traffic is looking bad, you can find an alternate route. Road traffic is available in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Wollongong and Newcastle.
  • Seamlessly in sync. Simply sign in to Google Maps on your desktop, click the star next to any result on maps.google.com.au and that place will automatically be starred on your phone, making it easy to remember (and navigate to!).
Google Maps Navigation is available for smartphones running Android 1.6 and later in both Australia and New Zealand. To try it out, go to Android Market and download Google Maps.

We’re also excited to announce walking navigation too to help you explore your destination on foot. Your phone will vibrate when you need to make a turn. You can even turn off voice guidance and just use these notifications while soaking in the sights and sounds around you. Use it like a virtual compass with satellite imagery to look ahead or to help pick out landmarks along the way.

As for me, I’m looking forward to our family trip to Hobart even more, now that I have one less thing to worry about, and more time to spend playing “I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with...”