Google Maps gets terrain maps, updated collaboration features

The app ads a new view layer that offers a detailed look at geographical features-- natural and man made.

Google Maps now has terrain maps. You can see mountains, valleys, and buildings. CNET Networks

Google Maps has added a new view layer to its repertoire today. It's called terrain view, and as the name suggests, it lets you get a detailed look at natural geographical features, as well as man made ones, like buildings and landmarks. Unlike Google Earth, you can't zoom around and change eye level to see how high something is, but Google has provided some degree of rendering on the surface of the earth to give it a 3D look and feel.

While it lacks the flash and instant usefulness of Street View (Google's latest maps addition), terrain view is a great way to look at topographical features with a little more understanding than one can garner from the plain map view. After giving the service a spin around most of the West Coast, my one quibble is that you can't zoom in as close as you might be used to. While satellite and map view can get you down to 20 feet, with terrain view you're limited to 1000 feet.

In addition to terrain view, Google has also updated its My Maps service to allow several people collaborate on a single map. The company launched the service a few months ago, although notably missing--compared to some of their document sharing applications--was a way to use the service with others. You can now open up any saved map by toggling it right from the map itself. You can also invite specific individuals to participate, like you would a closed document.

The maps team has been busy lately. Besides the latest terrain and MyMaps updates, the service launched user-generated markers last week, a partnership with Gilbarco Veeder-Root to put Google Maps in gas pumps, and added public transportation pricing to directions.

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