Google Maps has had a live traffic feature available since back in 2008; however it was only available for a limited number of large metropolitan areas. Things are about to change though, as Google has just added another 130 cities to the list and is now offering live traffic for a much larger number of locations.
The new list includes small towns in the US that you may not even have heard of, such as Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Kalamazoo, Michigan. In another new development, Google states plans to improve the coverage for many other countries, including Germany, Canada, France, China and the United Kingdom. Who knows, some day in the not so distant future, you may be able to check the traffic anywhere in the world by using Google Maps.
The US Department of Transportation uses a system of traffic sensors that are quite literally embedded in US highways in order to obtain their traffic information. These sensors are tremendously expensive and for that reason, only the largest US cities had true real-time traffic data. Google has taken a different tactic, and mainly collects their traffic data via Google Maps and through analysis of shared location data from users of Google Navigation. As Android smartphones continue to gain popularity among consumers and as more and more people begin to use smartphones and mobile devices for navigation, this has created a crowd sourcing solution for Google that now enables them to collect and share traffic information for a much wider range of locations. Live traffic is even available for rural areas and for small roads.
Google Maps users can access the live traffic feature via their Android device or by logging on to the Internet via a web browser. Google representatives have expressed that they wish to save travelers and commuters a great deal of ‘time and stress’ by providing accurate and up-to-date traffic information. The live traffic feature also enables Google to give users estimated travel times that are much more accurate than they once were. In addition, users are able to adjust their route in order to avoid areas that are congested. Results are displayed visually, with red, yellow and green colors within the map representing the pace of traffic flow. This feature is going to save people a lot of petrol money if they use it properly, that’s for sure!
At this point, the best coverage for Google’s Live Traffic feature is available in Western Europe and the US, but with a little help from their friends (who share their location data and updates with Google Navigation and Google Maps) Google’s Live Traffic feature should continue to improve for many other locations all around the globe, regardless of how populous the area is. So if you’re about to be out and about, why not give it a try and see if you can calculate a faster route by using Google’s Live Traffic feature to find the best way to go.