Microsoft has announced some new functionality for the mapping services delivered via its Bing search engine, which is now available to all users. Now, users will be able to access 35,000 traffic cameras to check how busy the roads are before they set out on their planned journey.
Applying the traffic overlay to a Bing map will now add camera icons where this functionality is available. A click on one of these icons will bring up a small live feed of traffic imagery from that particular location. It’s simple and noninvasive, just like this sort of tool should be.
Bing will even keep track of the last few cameras that you’ve viewed, assembling them as part of the Traffic overlay window for at-a-glance reference. This is a really nice touch, as it makes it trivially easy to check typically troubled parts of your commute in a flash before you leave the house.
At present, the large majority of available cameras are in major metro areas, as you might well expect. However, they’re not solely restricted to the United States — a total of eleven countries currently have accessible cameras, chief among them the United Kingdom.
Bing Maps launched in 2010, continuing the lineage of previous Microsoft offerings including Live Search Maps and MSN Virtual Earth. Since then it has been in a constant state of ongoing development, adding features like 3D visualizations and the ClearFlow system of traffic-conscious routing information developed by the company’s artificial intelligence team.
Microsoft is certainly doing everything that it can to make Bing Maps a viable competitor to its biggest rivals; Apple Maps and Google Maps. Advanced functionality like this will certainly tempt some users, but the established foothold on mobile enjoyed by those alternatives will prove very difficult to overcome.
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