Google Maps adds hands-free voice input to make driving safer

Google has announced that Maps on Android now officially supports hands-free voice commands, allowing users engaged in navigation to interrupt the helpful narrator to ask the locations of nearby gas stations, or to reroute on the fly to avoid highways.

A long time coming, Google Maps has for a long time supports voice search, but now the app responds to "OK Google" commands at any time, making it considerably easier, and safer, to interact with the app while actually, you know, driving.

Enabling the feature is relatively easy:

  1. Open the overflow menu and tap Settings.
  2. Tap OK Google detection.
  3. Enable "While driving".

The benefit of this feature is obvious, especially if you've ever been in a position where you need to make a change to your navigation route while stuck in traffic or driving down a highway at 60mph.

Google has a list of commands supported by the feature, but many of them, like "How's traffic?" or "Navigate home" are fairly obvious. But they could also be the difference between an accident and a quiet, uneventful ride home.

Daniel Bader

Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central. 

  • "But they could also be the difference between an accident and a quiet, uneventful ride home."
    Have you heard the lady's voice? She's NOT quiet :P
  • As GMC MaXx said, in settings, tap Navigation settings. There you'll see a setting for voice level. I set mine to "Softer". Also, on my Samsung, have to choose Navigation settings to set OK Google detection in "While Driving"
  • On my Sammy GS3, I notice when I tap the menu>Navigation settings>OK Google, I see the 'while driving" but the 'on' switch remains gray rather than blue.
  • I tried to do this but it is not available in my version of maps, and the update is not available to me yet. I will have to try to remember to enable this later. This could be useful for stopping for gas on long trips. When I drive cross-country I rely on the highway signs to indicate if there is a gas station coming up on the next exit. However, not all gas stations are on these signs. People may not realize this but you have to pay to be on those highway signs. So if a station has not ponied up they will not be listed. Thanks for the tip.
  • Step 2.5 Tap "Navigation settings"
  • Thank You.
  • I hope they'd include speed limits/speed display, but especially, having that effin' option to avoid tolls to stick! No, Boogle, I don't want to choose to avoid tolls EVERY SINGLE TIME. ¬¬
  • No speed camera information or limits but tolls are there! I was hoping but definitely not yet. I've just been using this today for my return home 340 mile round journey. The Google voice is really good though and "PIT stop" is great
  • I'm hoping for that too... My wife's old Garmin Phone had this which was nice. Also would be nice if you can at least ask... "Ok Google, what's the speed limit". I've tried this recently but doesn't work.
  • Speed limit would be great. MS actually has that on W10M Maps, it's very handy. Not that I follow it all the time, lol, but it would be nice to know.
  • And this is coming to Waze as well right?
  • Good news since CA just banned all cell phone use while driving, including checking maps (which was previously allowable).
  • Wait, you can't check maps at all? So does that mean you can't use a GPS? I'm sorry, but hands free should be legal. Problem is most people don't do it, or just don't know how. This new voice commands in maps at least makes it a little easier. I manage most things hands free on my phone now while driving, or usually pull over. They need better training and info on hands free setups though. My wife doesn't know how to use any of that (very tech illiterate, despite my attempts at training her), so she does calling only, through her Jeep's Uconnect system.
  • Hands free is allowable, but if you're driving you can't touch your phone. We've had these laws since 2006, and I'm amazed that I still see people talking on their phone held to their head. Here's the full text of the bill. It's quite an exciting read.
  • Handsfree and bluetooth are allowed, as is touching the screen "with the motion of a single swipe or tap of the driver’s finger.", as long as the "device is mounted on a vehicle’s windshield in the same manner a portable Global Positioning System (GPS) ... or is mounted on or affixed to a vehicle’s dashboard or center console in a manner that does not hinder the driver’s view of the road" So, basically voice control is allowed, as are simple screen interactions, as long as the device is being held in a mount. You cannot hold the device in your hand and use it while driving, even if you are using voice commands to interact with it. Having it mounted somewhere is required.
  • So this is their reason for making recent Maps versions require excessive taps. No thanks, I'll stick to this ancient 6.14.4 version that not only requires minimal taps but still has Navigation as a separate app I can launch directly! Does Google actually use their own apps in the real world? It seems not as they too often push out what seems only lab tested crap! :(
  • You don't like excessive taps, but want a separate app for navigation?!?!? I find the current version of Google Maps a pleasure to use, but each to their own.
  • So, because you don't like excessive taps, you won't install a version that gives more voice options (which reduces the number of taps needed while driving)? Also, was the "Navigation app" any different from the "Driving" shortcut in the current version? It can be added to a home-screen by going into the "maps" app > hamburger menu > "settings" > "navigation settings" > "add driving shortcut" ... the shortcut isn't the same as the old navigation shortcut - but that can always be adjusted with an icon pack.
  • my while driving option is grey'd out. wtf...
  • Is "Always On" enabled? If so then the "while driving" will be grey'd out as it the voice recognition is "always on". That's the only time I see my "while driving" gray'd out.
  • Where is Always On?
  • My option for "While driving" is also grayed out. But, the next option down is for "From any screen" which is active (already makes it available while driving) ... if I turn that off, then "While driving" becomes an available option.
  • My While driving option is also grayed out
  • Not showing that setting anywhere
  • Open App, Tap 3 bars in top left corner, scroll down to settings, tap settings, then Navigation settings, OK Google detection
  • The "While Driving" option is not on my phone. An update to Maps coming? My version is 9.37.2
  • I did that. It's not there at all
  • Is the power saving feature still there? the one where it turns off the screen and turns it on automatically when necessary?
  • Wait a minute, this has been available for months if not...checks app...nvm...on a beta version.
  • Does it work over Bluetooth? I've tried using Google Voice Search before in my car connected to Bluetooth and it didn't work.
  • Good to see the Avoid Toll command, but what they need to do is add the setting to make that option permanent, instead of having to toggle it off every time!
  • Its all fine with me but why does the Dutch voice sounds like she's about to kill herself or take a very very long nap? And its not like there are loads of alternative voices to choose from (perhaps for American but i'd like to talk Dutch to my phone)