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Checking real-time traffic with Google Maps for mobile

September 4th, 2009


mobile_logoHave you ever wondered how you could get to know the traffic condition on roads you are going to travel?

Information via media like radio is common, live traffic feed via internet is an upcoming trend or – a call to someone you know taking the same route sooner than you?

kl_federal_highway

These things are going to change and frankly, we can see it coming – with Google Maps.
Google Maps provide the ease of location based search, road search, route planning and whatnot.
Google Maps for mobile, however takes location-based application one notch higher.

Since Google Maps for mobile runs on your device, it basically could know your location either via GPS (for GPS enabled device) or the nearest telco base station.

With GPS and data layering, Google Maps for mobile could now highlight the roads that are encountering traffic jam!

Imagine a significant number of users on the road with Google Maps for mobile on their devices turned on. This group of people sends data frequently to the Google Maps server indicating their location. For a particular road that the data source indicates that users are travelling at a low speed, then that road is shown as crowded and having bad condition.

google_maps_traffic

This solution has already been implemented but only for U.S. at the moment. I’m sure it will gradually implemented globally when it’s ready.

Among the few things that I could see as issues at the moment and already mentioned by Google is data privacy. People might be concerned on sending their locations, including exact time of their travelling origin and destination. I believe the data could be traced to the device and if effort has been taken enough could find the owner.

Google is trying to educate users that they overcome the data privacy issue by making the data unidentifiable and to remove the data once it has been used.

We only use anonymous speed and location information to calculate traffic conditions, and only do so when you have chosen to enable location services on your phone. We use our scale to provide further privacy protection: When a lot of people are reporting data from the same area, we combine their data together to make it hard to tell one phone from another. Even though the vehicle carrying a phone is anonymous, we don’t want anybody to be able to find out where that anonymous vehicle came from or where it went — so we find the start and end points of every trip and permanently delete that data so that even Google ceases to have access to it.

The other problem would be data accuracy.
How accurate the data would be dependent on the number of users with Google Maps for mobile.
Only with a high number of users would the data be meaningful to identify roads that are having heavy road conditions, and it would be difficult to identify if the users are spread evenly and not everyone got their Google Maps enabled for this.

What about roads that are having multiple storeys? Ramps or multi-storey highways? How could that be identified which road is having heavy or light condition as the Google Maps is still in two dimension.

I guess there are still issues to be resolved but nevertheless, if Google is able to map the roads of the entire world, resolving issues for traffic condition shouldn’t be that difficult at all.

And if you can give me your location, I’ll get there in 60 seconds, skipping all the traffic jams along the way. :-)

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Google, Internet, Technology

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