Google Maps Adapts To Rush Hour Traffic

    August 2, 2007

Online mapping services are great, but they still have various faults and quirks – an over-reliance on u-turns, a tendency to place buildings on the wrong side of the street, and so on.  Now Google is trying to address one issue by making its drivetime estimates more accurate.

Fair warning: this new feature only works “for a limited set of metropolitan areas,” and there’s no word as to when (or where) it might be expanded.  Still, as announced by Eli Brandt, a software engineer, on the Google LatLong Blog, “Google Maps now lets you know how long a drive might take in rush-hour traffic.”

This could save you from showing up for a job interview 45 minutes early (if you overcompensated for Google’s estimates), or worse yet, 50 minutes late (if you didn’t).  Brandt acknowledges that the software isn’t perfect – it apparently works with stored traffic data, and not real-time info – but the development is definitely a positive one.

It’s also one that puts Google a figurative step ahead; The Utility Belt’s Jon Fortt notes, “Yahoo (YHOO) Maps and Microsoft’s Live Search, two of Google’s main competitors, do not yet calculate traffic drive times.”

Neither does MapQuest, which remains the leader in this field.  But innovations like this (and figures like these) indicate that Google Maps could climb to the top in the not-too-distant future.