Google popularized mashups when it released its Maps API four years ago. About one in five mashups uses a map, with Google's being the most popular choice. From time to time, Google creates its own mashups, too.
The company released a gadget to make embedding driving directions easier. When the destination is known (say, on a museum website), it can be hard-wired into the gadget. Then the code can be embedded on any web page and it will show up as a small tool. Users type their addresses and the directions appear right on the page.
It's clever. It's useful. And it's already pretty to easy to do with their API. So, why are they in the business of creating mashups?
Because not everyone is a developer. Just like when Google unleashed My Maps, the company is making it easy for anyone to go geo. That makes it more likely that the mom and pop restaurant owners will use a Google Map. So, Google gets more location data, directly from the source (ie, a restaurant owner). That pays dividends in improving their local search.
It's not such a bad thing for Google that this also undercuts some of MapQuest's enterprise offerings. If there's another similar mashup in Google's future, hopefully it will involve some good store locators.