I am told this is about a week or so old, but I haven't really seen any posts on it yet. Google Maps has changed the way they let users pick the type of directions they want. Instead of showing a drop down, defaulted to car directions, they now show you icons above the directions box.
Here is a screen capture of the new design:
Here is the old design:
I posted this at the Google Maps Help forum and top contributor, Barry Hunter (nice first name, btw), confirmed that they are new. He said:
Yes definitely new. Last couple of weeks at most.
They used to be presented as a dropdown under the text entry boxes.
They definitely make the options stand out, which is a good thing.
Forum discussion at Google Maps Help.