What are Bluetooth Tunnel Beacons?

This is a feature in Google Maps on Android that improves navigation through tunnels, addressing the long-standing challenge of maintaining accurate location tracking when GPS signals falter.

Historically, tunnels have posed a significant challenge for digital navigation tools, primarily due to the inability of GPS signals to penetrate the thick layers of earth and concrete. This often results in a loss of real-time location tracking. However, Google Maps has improved the situation through the introduction of Bluetooth tunnel beacons, a feature that uses the power of Bluetooth technology to offer an unprecedented level of location accuracy in subterranean environments.

Bluetooth tunnel beacons operate by emitting signals that are received by a user’s smartphone, providing precise location data to the device. This feature, using technology already implemented by Google-owned Waze utilises these signals in conjunction with the device’s mobile connectivity. Together, they deliver navigation assistance, mirroring the capabilities of a traditional GPS connection.

The feature appears under Settings > Navigation Settings and under the ‘Driving Options’ section near the bottom. The feature is disabled by default, and is described as: ‘Scan for Bluetooth tunnel beacons to improve location accuracy in tunnels’.

The effectiveness of Bluetooth tunnel beacons, however, depends on the presence of these beacons within tunnels. Waze has already installed these beacons in several major cities around the world, such as New York City, Chicago, Boston, Paris, Rio de Janeiro and Brussels.