Sophie is the Manager of Trends for EMEA, responsible for ensuring content in the region is insightful, while also working with the wider team on developing new trends.

Google Maps has introduced a wheelchair-friendly option to help people with disabilities better navigate their way across six major cities.

The feature will re-plan travel routes to ensure that all public transport suggested is accessible by wheelchair users. It is initially launching in London, New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Boston and Sydney, with plans to include more locations in the coming months.

Intelligent navigation

As with so many other tasks, consumers are increasingly relying on digital technology to help them navigate their way through the world. In fact, 39% of UK mobile app users use navigation/transportation apps once a month or more, according to Mintel’s UK 2017 report on mobile device apps. Such services have widespread appeal, yet as demonstrated by Google Maps’ new accessibility feature, there is still further potential to tailor them to the needs of the individual.

While wheelchair accessibility has a clear and much-needed purpose, other consumer groups are likely to appreciate similar features that allow them to customise settings to suit their needs. For example, families with young children may appreciate routes that minimise walking, while budget-strapped or health-conscious consumers may want to be able to review options by price or calories burnt respectively.

Alongside the routes themselves, there is also potential to adapt direction instructions to the user’s requirements. We have already seen the development of systems that use audible cues or haptic vibrations to help visually impaired people navigate their way, yet these innovations have potential outside of this demographic too, removing the need for users to keep referring to their smartphone while on the move.