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The newest update for Google Maps includes a new feature called Parking Difficulty, as announced by Google product manager Jeff Albertson. Currently rolling out, the update will be available globally for Android devices, and the Parking Difficulty feature will work in 25 metro areas in the United States.
The current list of supported cities includes San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, St. Louis, the DC area, Cleveland, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Houston, Phoenix, and a few others. While it won't work for all of the areas Google Maps covers, most of the major US cities where parking is an issue are covered.
The small parking information icon originally appeared in the beta version of Maps earlier this month, but now it is being officially released. Google uses similar technology as its Popular times and visit duration feature to calculate the anticipated parking situation at your destination. They certainly won't have actual workers monitoring parking lots to get an exact count, so the information is just an estimate. In the Google Maps app, you'll see a small rating on what Google thinks parking will be like. It ranges from easy, to medium, to difficult and will use historical parking data from your intended destination.
The service can help you decide if you need to leave a bit sooner to allow for parking, but it could also be a sign of more to come. This small new feature could be a stepping stone for future ride sharing or autonomous driving projects that Google has planned.