During my childhood, I have observed my father taking some extra time to catch up with the radio every time we had plans to go out to a faraway destination. Earlier it appeared to me as one of his daily habits similar to that of checking out the daily news broadcasts. But, apparently, as I grew up I realized he used to wait for the traffic updates of the major roads of our town. As a pre-teen, for me, it was a very smart way to save time beforehand.
Curious about it, I asked my father how does it work? He explained to me that the radio stations keep a track of local traffic and broadcast it time to time making it convenient for their listeners. Amazing for a 12-year boy, isn’t it?
Nowadays, Google Tech has made our lives a lot easier. Previously Google Maps helped us with our navigation quite efficiently. How do they do it? Almost everyone is familiar with the fact that it’s via satellites and a database. The multiple satellites revolving around the planet are used for this purpose.
But, recently for a couple of years, Google Maps have also enabled a feature that shows live traffic status anywhere around the globe. What a marvel of technology. Now, it is really amazing and easy to use this feature, but, very few of us are curious about trying to know how does Google is able to predict traffic at almost everywhere in real-time. Like most people even I used to believe that it is via the revolving satellites around a planet.
But, this misconception was contradicted by one of my seniors during a conversation that how is it possible that satellites updating the traffic details continuously when they themselves are changing their position. It was then when I came to know the reality behind the Global Traffic detection of Google Maps.
So, here is a tour highlighting the technicalities of the functioning of Google Maps in a less technical but understandable format.
Early Stage Information.
When Google introduced the feature of traffic details in Google Maps, it used a very trivial approach. Whenever it has to give its users about the approximated duration of their journey, it used to tell the average time based on the historical data collected over the years. But, this began to give inconsistency in the results, as traffic is something which we can’t expect to have a minimum deviation from the average.
This was not very accurate, but an acceptable technology for traffic navigation at that point of time.
Present Day Traffic Output.
In 2004 Google acquired ZipDash, a company specializing in real-time traffic analysis.
In 2007, Google integrated ZipDash’s technology into Google Maps
In nutshell, the technology can be called Crowdsourcing Traffic Data. Basically, Google keeps track of number of phones present on the road and how fast each of them is moving to determine traffic status. With a scenario where almost each and every one possess a smartphone, this technology is being proved to be very reliable and accurate.
What is Crowdsourcing?
Cellular telephone companies constantly monitor the locations of user devices.
- One tracking method is trilateration, whereby the distance (time delay) to three or more surrounding cell phone towers is measured.
- Another tracking method monitors the exact user coordinates determined by a GPS receiver inside the phone.
GPS-equipped cellphones began appearing in 2004, and by 2011, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission required that all new cellular phones be able to pinpoint location to within 50 feet.
Soliciting electronic information from a large group of people this way is referred to as crowd-sourcing.
Google stated: “When we combine your speed with the speed of other phones on the road, across thousands of phones moving around a city at any given time, we can get a pretty good picture of live traffic conditions”
Guide for the Traffic Feature of Google Maps
It follows a color code for conveying the traffic details, a colored overlay appears on top of major roads and motorways. The code means as the following-
- Green: a normal speed of traffic
- Orange: a slower traffic conditions
- Red: a congestion
- Dark red: nearly stopped or stop-and-go traffic
- Red and White dashed line: a road closure.
- If there is no data available, an overlay line will not appear
Google has stated: “we understand that many people would be concerned about telling the world how fast their car was moving if they also had to tell the world where they were going. Google built in a number of features to safeguard the identities and locations of users who choose to provide Google with traffic data.
You can even Opt-Out
Mobile devices which use Google’s Android operating system come equipped with the ability to send location data to Google, while non-Android devices which use Google’s map application are also able to transmit their location data to Google. However, options available in each phone’s settings allow users not to share information about their location with Google Maps.
On Google’s website, detailed opt-out instructions are available for various devices and operating systems, including Android, BlackBerry, iPhone/iPod, Palm webOS, Symbian S60, Windows Mobile, and Sony Ericsson.
Google stated, “Once you disable or opt out of My Location, Maps will not continue to send radio information back to Google servers to determine your handset’s approximate location”.
Video Courtesy- ” Techquickie “
So don’t forget to switch on your Location every time you leave home, this may contribute minutely yet significantly in determining the traffic status of the place where you are. This will, in turn, help you as well as other to stay updated and an opportunity to choose the least busy path towards the destination.