Google Maps tracking traffic flow

Aug 26, 2009
Daily traffic clogs the Jal el-Dib highway at the northern entrance to the Lebanese capital, Beirut. Such jams might become a thing of the past in the United States now that Google has invited US motorists to share their progress -- or lack thereof -- with other drivers through the Internet giant's online mapping service linked to smart phones.

Google has invited US motorists to share their progress -- or lack thereof -- with other drivers through the Internet giant's online mapping service linked to smart phones.

Google Maps is being enhanced this week to combine feedback from individual drivers with other traffic information to let people know which roads are likely to get them to their intended destinations the quickest.

"It takes almost zero effort on your part," product manager Dave Barth said in a message on the California technology titan's website.

"Just turn on Maps for mobile before starting your car, and the more people that participate, the better the resulting traffic reports get for everybody."

Google Maps software for mobile devices will use satellite positioning features in to gather anonymous information regarding how fast people are moving along different roads, according to Barth.

"Crowdsourcing traffic gives us a way to harness bits of location data from our users and give it back to them in a form they can use to make decisions that affect their free time, their pocketbooks and the environment," he said.

Google Maps users with concerns about strangers keeping track of where they drive can opt out of the program, according to the Internet firm.

"We understand that many people would be concerned about telling the world how fast their car was moving if they also had to tell the world where they were going, so we built privacy protections in from the start," Barth said.

Information regarding vehicles remains anonymous and no records are kept regarding start and end points of journeys, according to Google.

(c) 2009 AFP

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not rated yet Aug 26, 2009
lol GG google to track your position in real time hahaha
not rated yet Aug 26, 2009
Nice idea - Shame most phone batteries probably wont last the journey. Also what about data costs for the user while leaving google maps open.
not rated yet Aug 26, 2009
Maybe this would be better as a mandatory feature built into cars themselves?
not rated yet Aug 26, 2009
I use Google maps constantly on my blackberry and it does not seem to impact my battery life. The screen goes blank when I'm not looking at it. As for technology, some traffic monitoring gurus are also using your smartphones Bluetooth fingerprints to determine travel speeds. It would be best if everyone's GPS unit, smartphone, XM radio, On-star, and mobile laptop had two-way communications and reported back travel speed data to a centralized warehouse for speed and travel information. As it is now each company (GPS, smartphone, travel sites, etc) is trying to capitalize on their own profit instead of making everything open protcols for everyones benefit.
not rated yet Aug 26, 2009
the "dirty little secret" is that this is already essentially being done. The cell phone companies provide velocity information which translates to traffic patterns. This information is provided to google or a state Department of Transportation. I think the point of this article is that by having each individual user opt in, they get access to the more accurate GPS data rather than just the handoff from cell to cell as you are driving.