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The 'Creepy' Way Google Maps Knows When There's Traffic

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The 'Creepy' Way Google Maps Knows When There's 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 unexpectedly driving up to the back of a mile-long queue of gridlocked traffic. The road rage level just goes up to 11 out of 10.

It therefore means, before any journey, you have a brief glimpse at Google Maps for real time information. You may even use Google Maps as your satellite navigation outright.

It's pretty bloody useful. Within a few seconds you'll know how long journey the take, what are your various route options, and where to expect heavy traffic.


Credit: Google Maps

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 clear the road is head because it's using real-time data. It then uses this to analyse traffic and road conditions.


All iPhones that have Google Maps, and all Android phones that have location services turned on, send anonymous bits of data back to Google.

Furthermore, after buying accident reports from Waze in 2013, Google can now get information on users who report things like accidents or traffic jams.

This then allows the company to analyse the total number of cars, and how fast they are going, on any given road, at any given time.


Credit: Google Maps

Other apps, of course, offer very similar information, but Google's advantage lies in its size and popularity.

But, it goes beyond that. Google has built up a history over the last few years of what traffic is like on specific roads at specific times. It can predict how traffic will change over your drive.

For example: if you were driving from Manchester to Birmingham at 6pm. 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 handles 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.

Credit: Google Maps

Moore added that the company is now focusing 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 reliability, when the app has you stuck in traffic, it will still tell you that you're on the best route.

Featured Image Credit: Google Mps

Topics: Google, Google Maps, Traffic

Michael Minay
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