Google Maps Hops on Real Time Traffic Bandwagon

Posted Feb 28, 2007

Just when you thought that there aren’t that many ways you could improve upon a website that gives driving directions, Google has introduced a feature on Google Maps that warns about potential traffic delays. Who would this benefit? Those who commute through big cities. The current cities that the new Google Maps feature support include San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Dallas. This announcement was made official by Google Software Engineer, David Wang on the Google Blog.

How does it work? Below is a screen shot of the real time traffic data of Chicago, IL 5:23PM Central Time. Around this time is rush hour, so that explains why a lot of the routes are marked in red.  This implies that there is a delay in how fast the traffic is going. Users can select or de-select the traffic feature simply by clicking on the ‘Traffic’ button. This feature is also available on certain mobile phones.

How could Google Maps improve from this point? Two ways. First is by integrating this feature into other cities of the U.S. and secondly, imitate MapQuest. MapQuest has a gas price tracker that displays the gas stations that have the highest and lowest prices in any city of the U.S. [screen shot below].

Upon looking at Windows Live Search, I discovered that Microsoft had integrated the traffic feature before Google did.  And on top of that, Windows Live Search also includes under construction data. This is especially useful for those that live in the MidWest. There’s a poor joke that circulates around the MidWest: “There are only two seasons in the MidWest: Winter and construction.”

[Microsoft Virtual Earth Screen Shot displaying construction data]

The intensity of rivalry between driving directions websites only makes life easier for us, the consumer.   Microsoft should also take a page out of the MapQuest book of ideas and integrate a gas tracker feature as well.