With the advent of tools and apps like Google Maps, many of us who were once directionally challenged, can now arrive at the designated location with minimal or no detours along the way. After all, now we can just enter in the start address and the ending address then Viola! We are presented with step by step directions and even pictures to make the trip as painless as possible. Not only are there pictures and street by street directions, but now you can use the Google Maps Traffic feature and get live traffic data. But have you ever wondered how Google Maps works? After all, someone had to put together this great time saving tool!
Google Maps offers traffic reports/directions for 50 major American cities. For each city, driving conditions are indicated by color-coded lines. Red indicates that there are significant slowdowns; green means no congestion and yellow shows minor holdups. This information is ascertained by Google through the road sensors that detect the speed of the vehicles going by. This real time traffic report can make it much easier to plan your trips. To collect the information from the sensors, which are indicated by odd shaped rectangular cut-outs in the road typically placed at many busy intersections, Google has contracted with the Department of Transportation to be given this information. The information is updated frequently, especially for major highways and intersections and then posted on the site.
Of course, not all traffic is on major highways, so the road less traveled has recently begun to be monitored, though without the DOT sensors. This is perhaps the most innovated way Google Traffic Maps works, though. If you are one of the thousands of drivers who have Google Maps installed on a mobile phone with GPS capabilities enabled, then your location is passed on to Google in real time, so they are able to note where you are on a specific road at a given time, a process known as Crowd-sourcing.
It should be noted that this traffic program is not used as a violation of privacy. In fact, the speed and location information is anonymous, and is only used to track traffic conditions. In addition, if a number of people are reporting from the same area, the data is combined so that it is difficult to tell one phone from the other. Your privacy is protected even more, as Google is not given the start and ending points of your trip and the information is deleted so that Google does not even have access to the information. (Of course, if this still too much of Big Brother for you, then opting out is possible.)
Google Traffic Maps continues to improve and add features to make travel easier. The Google Maps app is free and is easy to use and install. Just plug your phone into your vehicle. For those with phones like T-Mobiles myTouch 3G and the Palm Pre, the Google Maps and traffic crowd-sourcing programs come pre-installed. With more and more phones being equipped with GPS, it will be easier to track traffic patterns not only saving you time on your morning commutes, but making it easier to determine how long and what roads you will want to travel when you make your next road trip.
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