Getting to know Google Now's newest features

Google updated its intelligent voice assistant to help with car rentals, event tickets, public transit, and reminders. Here's how to set up the new features.

Dan Graziano/CNET

Google on Wednesday announced a massive update for Google Now . The latest version of the company's intelligent voice assistant adds information cards for car rentals, event tickets, and college football scores . Other improvements included an updated public transit card and new sharing capabilities.

For those unfamiliar with the service, Google Now was Google's response to Siri on the iPhone and iPad. The service is much more than a voice assistant, however. Google uses location data and search history to actually predict where you are going and what you are doing.

If you are at work, Google Now will let you know how long it will take to get home. It will display informative cards about your favorite sports teams, the local weather, and topics you have previously researched. It can also track flights, packages, movie times, TV shows, coupons, stocks, and more.

Here's how to use some of the new features in Google Now:

Car rentals
Google taps into your Gmail account to track packages, reservations, upcoming events, and now car rentals. The new car rentals tab will display reservation details and directions back to the dealer inside the Google Now app.

Google

Car rental information can be toggled on or off by clicking on the three vertical dots in the lower-right-hand corner of the Google Now app and selecting the Settings option. Next, click Google Now, open the Gmail cards option, and select the Car rentals box.

Tickets
Another new feature is Google Now's ability to keep track of tickets for sporting events or concerts. The service will automatically display tickets, once again pulled from your Gmail account, on your device when you arrive at the venue. A second tab will also display popular and "Locally relevant Web sites" for upcoming events at the same location.

Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

This feature can be disabled or enabled by going to the Google Now settings, opening the Gmail cards options, and clicking on the Events box.

Reminders
Keeping up with the latest TV shows, music, and movies can sometimes feel like a second job. When does the new season of "The Big Bang Theory" start? Did "How I Met Your Mother" switch days? We can ask Google these questions, but remembering the time and dates for new show premieres is nearly impossible.

Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

Not only can Google Now handle traditional reminders, like taking out the trash or paying a bill, the service now includes reminders built directly into Google's search engine . Typing in a show from either your mobile device or desktop will display a "Remind you about new episodes" option. You can also be reminded about upcoming events, albums, books, or movies from favorite musicians, filmmakers, or actors.

Reminders can be enabled in the Google Now settings.

Commute sharing
Perhaps one of the most interesting, and what could be controversial, features Google added was the ability to share location data with friends and family. The commute sharing feature can be used to notify specific Google+ contacts or entire circles about where you are heading.

Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

Commute sharing can be enabled by entering the Google Now settings, selecting the Google Now option, scrolling down to Traffic, and clicking "Let them see your commute updates." You will then have to select who you want to share the data with in Google+. This can be done by clicking on the "Choose who can see your location using Google+" option, make sure the Location Sharing switch is toggled on, and select "Choose people to share with" under the Pinpoint Location section.

Google

You will also have the ability to block commuting updates from Google+ friends who have chosen to share their information with you.

Updates can be blocked the first time you see them by selecting the "No" option on the bottom of the tab, or by clicking on the information icon at the top-right-hand side of the tab, and selecting the remove icon.

If you no longer wish to share your commute updates with friends, go to the Menu, open Settings, select Google Now, enter the Traffic settings, and toggle the switch off.

The updated Google Now application is available on the Google Play store for devices running Android 4.1 or higher.

 

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