By now, most smartphone users are quite aware of what Google Navigation brings to the table. It gives you turn-by-turn directions from wherever you are to wherever you want to go. It can do this if you’re driving a car, riding a bike, walking, or taking public transit. However, with the exception of giving you three alternative routes to choose from, you pretty much have to go via a route Google picks. For many though, the ultimate Google Navigation feature would be for it to direct you along a custom route.
It’s always been possible to create custom routes with Google Maps on the web. You just enter an initial start and end location, and then you add waypoints to the map. These are specific points that the route must pass through on its way from point A to point B. A bug in the recent “new“ version of Google Maps on the web makes it impossible to place waypoints that are not ON A ROAD when creating custom cycling or walking directions, but the older version can. You can always switch back to the old version of the web-based Maps page by clicking the on the question mark icon in the lower-right and selecting the “Return to classic Google Maps“.
But once a custom route is created, how do you get that onto your mobile device? Assuming for a minute that you have created the custom route using the “new“ Google Maps web portal, all you need to do is click on the gear icon, and then select “Share and embed Map“. From the dialog that pops up, click on the “Short URL“ checkbox, and then copy and paste the short link into an email TO YOURSELF that you can read on your phone or tablet.
Now go to your phone and open that email. Click on the link you provided to yourself and choose Google Maps as the app you wish to use to open it....
Viola, you now have a custom map inside of Google Maps on your phone that you can start like any other route, so long as you are in close proximity to the starting point of that custom route. If you are too far away (I’m not sure how far that is) you won’t be given the option of starting the route, just previewing it.
I was very excited to give this a try, and so I created a custom route to follow. Everything seemed to go well SO LONG as I stayed with the route. If I made any detours, or I simple failed to make a turn requested by Google Navigation, things went horribly wrong. What happened at that point was that Google Navigation found a new route based on my mistake (as we assume navigations apps will do). I thought it would continue to use the waypoints I’d programmed into the custom route, but alas it did not. It still plotted me a route to my destination, but now it returned to its default state of giving me three optional ways to get there. I thought that maybe restarting the route would do the trick, but I forgot the earlier gotcha I noted in the previous paragraph. I was now too far away from the starting point to restart the custom navigation.
So, it IS POSSIBLE to create a custom route and follow it from start to finish, but it’s a very fragile thing. Make just one wrong turn, or be forced to take a detour that you weren’t aware of when you created the custom route, and it collapses like a house of cards. At that point you have NO CHOICE to but return to stock routing, because there’s no way to restart the custom route once you’ve left the starting point. I was very disappointed by this turn of events, but I do concede that under ideal conditions, it is at least doable.