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“Turn Left at Taco Bell”—Google Maps Uses Fast Food Restaurants to Give Directions

Food & Wine logo Food & Wine 4/17/2018 Mike Pomranz
a sign on the side of a mountain © Bloomberg/Getty Images

When you give directions to a friend, you typically take a much different approach than a GPS device. For instance, you’re unlikely to say, “Turn right in 1.3 miles,” in part because decimals were never your strong suit. Instead, you’re more likely to say, “Turn right at Sam’s Cleaners.” Of course, your friend might not know Sam’s Cleaners, so an even better instruction would be a place that anyone can recognize like “Turn right at McDonald’s.” McDonald’s has never been known for being subtle with their signage.

Turns out, recently Google Maps has been taking a similar approach with their own directions, hopefully making the sometimes very mathematical-sounding instructions easier to digest. As far back as last month, you can find tweets of people being shocked by just how colloquial Google has gotten. “Google map navigation just told me to turn right ‘after the Pizza Hut’ as opposed to a specific road name,” user Stacey Carlin tweeted on March 28.

Tech site Engadget reached out to Google, and indeed, the Maps maker said that using landmarks to aid in directions is one new method the company has been trying out to make navigation simpler; however, the tech giant didn’t say whether the feature would become a permanent addition and see a wider rollout.

These Are Google's Most Searched-For Dinner and Cocktail Recipes Find out what people across the nation, and the globe, cooked this year.

Meanwhile, some Twitter users pointed out a couple other interesting side effects of the new system. First, if you’re used to hearing your GPS talk in very technical terms, suddenly getting a fast food namedrop could actually be distracting. “Google Maps just told us to turn left at Taco Bell, and we are so confused,” Twitter user Elizabeth Yang wrote.

Additionally, as Patrick Sullivan tweeted, adding brand names to Google’s directions could open up the opportunity for some serious product placement. “So @googlemaps how much did @McDonalds pay you for this partnership??” he quipped. “’Turn right at McDonald’s?!?!’ C’mon.”

Hey, it’s not like Google Maps said, “Turn right at McDonald’s, or why not stop in for a delicious McFlurry?” Though if you can’t imagine that happening in the future, you should be thankful you didn’t pursue a career in ad sales.

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