The ‘Creepy’ Way Google Maps Knows When There’s Traffic

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Here is how Google Maps knows when there is traffic...

Unless you’ve got a high spec, your sat nav won’t give up-to-date traffic warnings. And, let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than unknowingly driving up to the back of a mile-long queue of non-moving traffic. The road rage level just goes off the charts.

Before any journey, you have a short glimpse at Google Maps for real time information. You may even use Google Maps as your satellite navigation solely. It’s rather useful. Within a few seconds you’ll know exactly how long the journey will take, what your various route options are, and where to expect heavy traffic.

But how does it know? How can it, before your local radio station dishes out the information from the traffic cameras? Well, it’s watching you. And the car next to you. Oh, and the one in front too. Google Maps can tell you how empty/full the road is ahead because it’s using real-time data. It then uses this to analyze traffic and road conditions.

All iPhones that have Google Maps, and all Android phones that have location services turned on, send anonymous data back to Google. Also, after buying accident reports from Waze in 2013, Google can now get information on users who report things like wrecks or traffic jams. This then allows the company to analyze the total number of cars and the speed they are traveling, on any given road, at any given time.

Other apps offer comparable information, but Google’s advantage lies in its size and popularity. However, it goes beyond that. Google has developed a history over the last few years of what traffic is like on particular roads at particular times. It can predict how traffic will change over your drive.

For example: if you were driving from Manchester to Birmingham at 6 pm. There may well be heavy rush hour traffic in the Midlands right now, but Google knows it won’t be half as bad by the time you get there.

Google Facts

Over 1 billion searches are handled by Google.
‘Google’ is a verb that was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in June 2006.
Google had acquired 127 companies in 12 years.
Google site traffic doubled when they introduced ‘did you mean?’.
56% of the internet users Google about themselves.

Amanda Leicht Moore, the lead project manager for Google Maps, told Tech Insider: “It’s not just what [traffic] is right now, but how do we expect it to change over the next hour or two hours.

“We can tell you if the traffic jam ahead – is that going add five minutes to your trip? Or ten minutes to your trip? Or 40 minutes to your trip? “There’s a lot of modelling and a lot of smarts that go into trying to anticipate how traffic will change.

Moore added that the company is now concentrating on building trust. “When we tell you to take the side route, it’s so important for us to tell you because there is an incident over here, because you need to trust,” she said. It’s all about the confidence. And even when you may be questioning the reliability, when the app has you stuck in traffic, it will still tell you that you’re on the best route.

(Images via: Google Maps)

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