Google Maps has made its parking difficulty icons feature available to Android and iOS users in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, three Canadian cities among 25 outside the United States where the feature can now be used.
Look up directions to a destination in those three centres and Google Maps will display a "P" symbol next to the time/distance estimate to tell you what kind of parking challenges -- limited, medium or easy -- await you.
Google says it uses historical parking data to gauge how tough a time you'll have stashing your car; it also uses crowd-sourced information and watches for geographical areas where GPS-enabled devices are circling blocks in busy neighbourhoods -- kind of like how the mapping service generates live traffic data -- which Google refers to as a "fingerprint" of difficult parking.
Another new feature so far only offered in 25 US cities is a "find parking" feature for Android users that shows parking lots and parkades near your destination. Choose one, and Google will alter its driving directions to take you there, and once you're parked up, the service will give you walking directions to where you're going.