You’ve got somewhere to be in 15 minutes, but you don’t know how you get there. Seeing as it’s 2013, you whip out your smartphone, tap on Google Maps, type in the address of the place you’re going, and you’re greeted with the option of selecting from a list of routes:
“18 minutes with medium traffic” might be the description of a route that sends you on a busy freeway.
“14 minutes in light traffic” reads another route, which avoids freeways and takes local streets.
Google Maps saves the day.
The popular navigation app has used real-time traffic data from third-party sources and from its users for more than a year, but Google is continuously bolstering its capabilities with the recognition that accurate traffic data is critically important to users of Google Maps. Prior to the spring of 2012, Google Maps used historical data for traffic information, giving users who selected a destination a time estimate that would say something along the lines of “This route could take up to 45 minutes in heavy traffic.” Since that 2012 update, however, Google has aggregated real-time traffic data both from third-party sources, and from Android users who have opted into sharing their location data through their settings. As a result, when you look at a map in Google Maps, green roads are roads that are moving slowly, yellow-colored roads have moderate traffic, and red-colored roads are places you would want to avoid if you have the choice.
Earlier this year, Google acquired Waze, an Israel-based company that created an app that crowdsources traffic data. In the last month, Google started integrating its Waze traffic data into Google Maps. The big addition to Google Maps here is that Waze users can update their maps in real time with information about crashes, road hazards, or construction. When a crash is reported in Waze, now, that data can be ported over to Google Maps for users of that app to benefit from.
So as Google Maps aggregates data from its users, it stands to reason that the more users who opt in to location sharing, the more accurate traffic data will be. If you are interested in sharing your location to help improve Maps, you can do so in a few easy steps:
- From your home screen, navigate to Settings.
- Tap on the “Accounts & Sync” menu option (in Jelly Bean).
- Tap on “Google”.
- Tap on “Location settings”.
- Slide the “Let Google apps access your location” indicator to “on”.
That’s all you need to do and you’ll be contributing to the greater maps good and will have the peace of mind that while you’re sitting in gridlock, you’re doing your part to help make someone else be on time for their appointments.