If you commute along a heavily-trafficked highway, you've probably often thought - and tried - alternate ways home. This is a trial-and-error method that can be quite frustrating. Many times, such as rainy days, when traffic is bad in one place - it feels bad everywhere.
But Google Maps is hoping to alleviate some of that frustration by adding arterial roads to its traffic layer. If you don't typically use the word "arterial" when considering your commute, just know that it means more roads are covered in the traffic layer.
Now, you can know if an alternate route is going to be better or if its suffering from the similar clogged conditions your regular route is suffering from.
Here's a screenshot of traffic conditions in the Metropolitan Washington, DC area, taken at around 3:30pm. Notice the calm before the rush hour storm. Go home now if you have flex hours!
Google says one of the reasons its able to provide this kind of data is because of crowdsourcing. If you're not familiar, crowdsourcing is based on the concept of the "wisdom of the crowds," where multiple people contribute to a project. In this case, you may have been contributing without even knowing it.
If you use Google Maps on a phone with GPS and turn on "My Location," your phone sends data to Google about your position and speed. Google uses that data to help develop its traffic reports.
If you want to opt-out, follow these instructions. Of course, you'll lose the ability to associate your location with Maps and mobile applications that use geolocation features.
Google says there are privacy protections added in, but excuse my skepticism as they were just court-ordered to hand over the name of an anonymous blogger in a libel suit. Plus, Google is in the process of combining all your accounts, so your AdWords and Google Portfolio can be attached to your location and speed info! Get excited.
I'm pretty sure the smart people of Google could figure out an opt-out option that would allow people to disallow information about the speed they are going and other private details, while still being able to use My Location. If they did so, I'm also pretty sure they would still have plenty of people willing to give them the data.
I guess I'm glad they're being transparent about it?
What say you? Leave a comment. That's an order.