We are no strangers to traffic jams. It’s part and parcel of our daily commutes. Roads get congested due to many reasons such as maintenance, protests, VIP movements and so on. Some other reasons depend on the time of the day such as in the mornings during which everyone is going to educational institutions or workplaces or in the afternoon when schools and offices get off and everyone comes out on the road. Hence it’s something we have to endure on a daily basis.
This is where Google Maps comes into the picture, it offered navigation and perfect maps and points of interests but the only thing probably missing to make the experience complete was the lack of a live traffic updates feature that has now been rolled out in the latest Google Maps update and is now in a working state. This feature has been available since 2012 in various countries and is now available for Pakistan.
How to enable and use Google Traffic?
To enable and use this new feature, first make sure that Location/GPS is enabled on your smartphone. Then open the Google Maps application and tap on the hamburger menu on the top left. Then select traffic from the drop-down menu. After that you will notice that most roads will have a colored marking on them. There are three colors namely Green, Yellow and Red which signify the level of traffic congestion. Green means the roads are clear and the flow is normal. Yellow means slight delay in commutes due to traffic and Red means that roads are congested with heavy traffic and alternate routes should be taken. It also mentions which routes will be slower as well as the Estimated Time of Arrival for the currently selected route.
How it works?
Google sources traffic data in real time by gathering data from Android users who have enabled and agreed to share their location. Hence Google crowdsources live traffic data by getting it from a group of people at any particular location which in turn lets users know which roads are congested and which routes are better to take as it would make commute times shorter. The more users with location enabled in a particular area, the better the live traffic feed will be.
Known Caveats and Countereffects:
While Google Maps comes out as a great free app for navigation and location services. There are a few caveats that users should be aware of. Firstly is the fact that this app is offered as free but your information is used for advertising and marketing purposes and might be sold to third parties as well. But since we already use many Google services such as Google+, Chrome, Gmail, Youtube etc so our data is already in use for this purpose and the only option to not share your data is to not use their services which is frankly next to impossible.
Secondly, since these traffic updates are updated in real-time, hence there is a continuous stream of data being uploaded and downloaded. So users should be aware that their data volumes would be exhausted much sooner and should take precautionary measure such as keeping a track of their data usage and setting a data limit to keep costs in check.
Last of all, offline mapping is available in Google Maps but it’s not as good as it downloads POIs and addresses but only for a limited geographic area and for a limited time period of 30 days only at a time. Hence users that use navigation services a lot should consider a paid alternative namely Sygic which downloads the map data for once and then there is no extra data cost each time for loading up the maps during usage. Also your privacy is more valued as paid apps don’t have ads and hence your personal information is not shared with anyone.
We got in touch with Mr. Amar Makhdoom, CEO of Knavix, which is a provider of maps to corporations and car manufacturers. Here is what he had to say about the newly introduced Google Traffic updates feature:
“The inclusion of Traffic data for Pakistan is a very good step however in all our tests we found the sample size to be extremely small. Its not a true representation at the moment and could be extremely dangerous for people making their decisions based on this info. iIf the people sharing location data increases from currently 5 or 10 to thousands then we reccomend using this. But currently with Google’s limited map data and very few people actually crowdsourcing their location info it is not recommended.”
Other than the above mentioned niggles, we think that it’s a great move by Google to offer this new feature to facilitate users and it would really save time during daily commutes. What do you think about the newly introduced real-time traffic updates. Share your opinions in the comments below!