If that sounds familiar, it's because Google added it to the web version of Maps many year ago, in 2008 in fact (as Android Police notes). Tapping on the Street View image opens it up full-screen, properly facing the direction you're going on the route. Most people are probably happy enough with the info provided by the turn-by-turn navigation, but if you're the type to get a little lost these images might help you prepare for the route.
The default view when you pop open the Google Maps app has changed a bit, as well. Now, the bottom third or so of the screen contains info relevant to the time of day and your location, like local lunch spots. Google's had this location-specific info in Maps for a long time now; they're just surfacing it in a more obvious way here. These changes should all be available in Google Maps for Android now, but they haven't rolled out to the iOS app just yet. Given how Google is keen on keeping its apps in parity, these new features will likely hit the iPhone before long.