April 2, 2012 report
Google tries new approach with real time traffic estimates for Google Maps
(PhysOrg.com) -- It used to be when using Google Maps to plan your route, i.e. driving from one destination to another, Google Maps would also try to give you an estimate for how long it would really take you to make that trip using historical data trends it had built up over time. The problem was, real world travel times often varied greatly from the historical data, leaving drivers frustrated with the results. Because of that, Google finally pulled the plug on the feature altogether last summer. Now, it appears Google is ready to try again, though this time it’s taking a much different approach, using data generated in real time via third party reports and data it obtains via drivers who have phones running Android and who also choose to opt in to Google’s "My Location” feature by enabling it voluntarily on their phones.
One of the nice features of Maps’ new real-time traffic monitoring is that users don’t have to go looking for it, the numbers show up automatically. Thus to use it, all a user does is click on the same links they always have, type in both departure and arrival destinations and Google will give both the average driving time in ideal conditions (in good weather with no other cars on the road) and what it believes to be the driving time based on current conditions. Obviously, there are some caveats. One is that in order for the whole thing to work, drivers must live in an area that Google has included, namely a major city. The other is that an awful lot of Android users must choose to opt in.
For Google to make this announcement now, they must be confident that enough users are now already choosing to enable the “My Location” option. As for living in one of the cities that Google has included, it appears most of the larger ones in the United States are currently included as are several in Europe, most notably Great Britain. Google says it’s adding more as time passes, which carries a lot of weight coming from the company that has spent a veritable fortune building up images around the world for no better reason than to post them to its Street View feature.
Because it’s based on real live user data, it’s likely Google’s new driving time estimates will be more accurate than in the past, and for the same reason, it’s likely those estimates will get better over time as more data points become available from Android users, which should hopefully outweigh any objections some might have over Google even having “My Location” as a feature on their phone which allows Google to not only collect GPS data on users, but to save that data and use it for other purposes.
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