Earlier this week, Google announced a new addition to Google Maps on the company’s official Lat Lon Blog. Now providing the ability to see estimations of traffic conditions in real-time, Google Maps users can check various routes and make a more informed decision prior to making a trip across a populated area. While estimated traffic time had been a feature on Google Maps for years, Google hasn’t been able to provide real-time traffic updates until this week. During July 2011, Google removed the general traffic estimation from Google Maps due to the inaccuracy of the data. The new real-time updates compile information on traffic speeds as well as road conditions to provide the estimate.
According to Google Maps software engineer Szabolcs Payrits, he stated “In areas where the information is available, this new and improved feature evaluates current traffic conditions and is constantly being refreshed to provide you with the most accurate, up-to-date estimate possible. To see this feature, simply access directions as you normally would on Google Maps.”
Designed identically, users will see an “in current traffic” real-time figure on the left side of the page in the same spot where the general time estimate used to appear. In order to tabulate these real-time estimations, Google is relying on croudsourcing through Android-powered phones. While real-time traffic estimations are currently more commonly found in large metropolitan areas, Android phone users can help contribute to the data by turning on the My Location feature on Google Maps for Android. This data has been anonymized to protect the identities of the Android phone owners.
Google’s real-time traffic data is very similar to the Waze application for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Nokia phones. Using community, crowdsourced data, the app provides current traffic conditions after compiling data regarding hazards in the road, traffic jams and reports of police scanning the speed of traffic.