Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Google Maps Navigation Now Routes Around Heavy Traffic

I've always been a fan of the official apps published by Google.  Navigation is no exception.  Although it's still technically in beta, I use it as my primary GPS when traveling.  Now Google has added a feature that automatically routes you around heavy traffic.

Google's routing algorithms [already in use in their current traffic layer of Google Maps,] route you around heavy traffic based on historical traffic trends as well as current traffic. Current traffic conditions are calculated by using data collected from Google Maps users that have GPS enabled.  Your average speed is used to calculate traffic density.  Before you privacy buffs freak out and scream from the top of a mountain: "OMG GOOGLE KNOWS WHERE YOU ARE", users often fly through those pesky Terms and Conditions the first time Maps opens.  That's where Google gets consent from the user for anonymous collection of data.

From Google Mobile Blog:
You don’t have to do anything to be routed around traffic; just start Navigation like you normally would, either from the Navigation app or from within Google Maps. Before today, Navigation would choose whichever route was fastest, without taking current traffic conditions into account. It would also generate additional alternate directions, such as the shortest route or one that uses highways instead of side roads. Starting today, our routing algorithms will also apply our knowledge of current and historical traffic to select the fastest route from those alternates. That means that Navigation will automatically guide you along the best route given the current traffic conditions.

It's good to see efforts going into new or enhanced features for Navigation.  There are still a few features missing from Navigation that TomTom or Garmin users are missing.  Traffic was one of those features, but another one still missing is via points. Via points allow the user to punch in a list of locations and navigate to each one in order.  I'd imagine it with a desktop (Google Maps) interface where you could easily compose a "destination list" that would automatically transfer to your device.  Maybe this one is coming down the pipe over at Google and might make the cut before Google Maps Navigation hits the RTM stage.  A Garmin user may also miss "Find (insert favorite POI here) along my route".  Another one I wouldn't mind seeing is "Avoid Highways" as I often travel by scooter in the summer. Caio.

Sources: Josh McWilliam, Google Mobile Blog, Google Mobile

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