Google Maps: Preview your route in 3D

Getting directions is one of the most popular features on Google Maps, whether it be for driving, walking, biking or transit. Today, we are launching a new feature that allows you to bring your upcoming trip to life, by allowing you to preview your route in 3D.

Let’s say you’re planning a road trip down the beautiful coast of California’s Highway 1 and want to be able to see what the route really looks like. California’s rugged coastline is not to be missed, but the top-down view really doesn’t give you a good sense of what this majestic terrain is like. Using the 3D preview; however, you can get aerial view of the route, as if you were in a helicopter flying above the road.

To preview your own route, it is as simple as clicking on a button. Start by entering your starting point, destination, and mode of transport like any directions; in this case, driving directions from ‘Carmel CA to Big Sur CA.’ Then, just click on the “3D” play button. The map will switch to Earth view and automatically start flying you along your recommended route.

You can pause the flight at any time by clicking anywhere in the 3D view or on the pause button in the lower left. While the flight is paused, you can explore the surrounding area in 3D by clicking and dragging the map. When you are ready to resume the flight, simply click on the play button in the lower left of the 3D view.

To help you keep track of which step you are on, the current leg of the trip is highlighted in the left panel. You can also jump to a different part of the trip by clicking on a different step.

You can get back to 2D mode by clicking on the “2D” button in the left panel at any time.

The Earliest GPS Device

They are notorious for guiding exasperated motorists down footpaths, into ponds or to the wrong city entirely.

But the modern-day sat-nav is likely to pose far fewer problems for lost drivers than its 1927 forerunner.

The Plus Four Wristlet Route Indicator, which has gone on display at a National Trust house, is thought to be the first navigation device for motorists.


Eccentric invention: the Plus Four Wristlet Route Indicator’s tiny interchangable paper maps seem quaint compared with their modern counterparts

Worn like a wrist-watch, it is loaded with a tiny paper road map that is rolled across the face by adjusting two small black knobs.

It comes with set route maps, such as London to Bournemouth and London to Edinburgh, and the driver winds the knobs to move the map on as their car travels further.

When motorists wish to turn off the road, they have to pull over to replace the map with another map that corresponds to a number on the junction.

The ingenious but fiddly device was never mass produced and would have only been used by the tiny section of the population who could afford cars.

It also has a function to allow the wearer to keep golf scores, which indicates it would have been worn by a Bertie Wooster type of person from P.G. Wodehouse’s famous novels.

It is one of the key attractions at the Curious Contraptions exhibition of eccentric inventions from the Victorian and Edwardian eras, at Standen House in East Grinstead, East Sussex, on various dates until 1 June.

Owner of the collection Maurice Collins, 73, from Muswell Hill, London, said it was of his most unusual items.

“It’s an amazing invention and I have never seen another one like it,” he said.

“The idea is that if you want to go from London to Bournemouth you put that map into the watch and then as you drive along you wind the device to keep pace with where you are.

“It is very amateurish and very simplistic.

“Sadly I’ve never tried it myself and I’m not sure how successful it would be as a navigation device.

“It’s a bit of an eccentric invention.

“It’s the sort of thing you can imagine Bertie Wooster using and then his butler Jeeves having to dig him out of a hole.”

The wristlet would have cost around £5, which in today’s money is about £45 to £50, Mr Collins added.

It comes with around 20 maps but more could be ordered to cover the entirety of the country. Most of the set journeys start from London.

Christopher Hill, visitor services manager at Standen House, said it was an ingenious idea.

“It is a great idea but it would have been quite fiddly to keep winding the map on as you drove and when you wanted to change a map you would have to pull off the road,” he said.

“It would probably have been used by people who were taking day trips from London and would have been sold in car shops alongside driving gloves and maps.

“Modern sat-navs cause a lot of problems but I think they might be a bit more reliable than this gadget.”

Other gadgets on show at the nineteenth century exhibition include a hem measurer, a brothel clock, which helpfully projects the time onto the ceiling, and the portable desk for writing while on a train.

How to measure distances with the Google Earth


The “ruler” tool in Google Earth has always been useful, and it has seen a number of improvements over the years. To get started with it, simply go to [Tools] –> [Ruler] in Google Earth and it’ll open up for you in a small window.

Here are a few things you can do with it:

Measure the length of a field

To measure the length of a field (or driveway, or any other straight line), simply use the “line” feature in the ruler. Choose your unit of measure (inches, meters, miles, etc) and then click the two points on the ground you’d like to measure. That’s it — it’s very easy!


Measure a running/biking route

I have a GPS-enabled watch that can track how far I run, which is quite cool. However, I usually want to know how far my route is before I head out, and the Ruler’s “path” tool is great for that. By choosing the path, and then clicking various points along my route, I can see how far it’ll be. As long as you plot your points carefully, it will be remarkably accurate. I also change the setting to “miles” for this one, since that’s how I typically measure my runs. This would also work well for biking, hiking, or just walking. You could potentially use it to measure driving distance, though the standard “directions” feature would work better in most of those cases.


Save and edit your path

Once you’ve created your path, you might want to save it for future reference. Simply click the “save” button in the Ruler’s window and it will save the path to your “Temporary Places” folder. You can edit the path in the future by right-clicking on the item from within your “places” panel and choosing “properties”.


Get an elevation profile

One of the great new features unveiled in Google Earth 5.2 last year was “Elevation Profiles”. This allows you to quickly see the elevation changes over a particular area. If you save your path in Google Earth, you can view the elevation profile for it very easily. Right-click on the item you saved in your “places” panel and choose “Show Elevation Profile”.

In this example, we’ll hike up Kennesaw mountain, and then follow the service road to get back down. You can see that the elevation profile shows the steep ascent, followed by the more gradual descent on the way back down.


The Ruler tool in Google Earth can be quite useful, so head into [Tools] –> [Ruler] to try it for yourself!