How does Google Maps predict traffic?

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The Google Maps uses green, yellow and red routes to indicate clear, slow-moving, or heavily congested traffic respectively. These routes are handy when you’re trying to determine the fastest route for your destination. However, have you ever wondered how does Google know the traffic conditions between your location and destination?

Google Maps bases its traffic views and faster-route recommendations on two different kinds of information. These information are historical data and real time date. The historical data is the average time it takes to travel a particular section of road at specific times on specific days. Additionally, sensors and smartphones send the real-time data that report how fast cars are moving right then.

Early versions of Google Maps relied only on data from traffic sensors installed by government transportation agencies or private companies. The sensors are able to specialize in compiling traffic data and detect the size and speed of passing vehicles via the use of radar, active infrared or laser radar technology. Finally, the compiled traffic data are wirelessly transmitted to the server to provide real-time traffic updates.

The information once collected becomes part of the pool of historical data used to predict traffic volume on future dates. However, sensor data are limited to sensors installed highways and primary roads that are heavily traveled or traffic-prone routes.

Earlier in 2009, Google turned to crowd sourcing for improvement of the accuracy of traffic predictions. Whenever Android phone users turn on their Google Maps app with GPS location enabled, the phone sends back bits of data, anonymously, to Google. Thus, obtained data assists the company to know how fast their cars are moving. Google Maps continuously combines the data coming in and sends it back as colored routes.

The traffic predictions become more reliable when every driver uses location enabled Google Maps. It is because Google Maps can look at the average speed of cars traveling along the same route. Those routes about which Google Maps doesn’t have enough data to estimate the traffic flow, will appear in gray on the traffic layer.

With its acquisition of Waze in 2013, Google added a human element to its traffic calculations. Drivers use the Waze app to report traffic incidents including accidents, disabled vehicles, slowdowns and even speed traps. These real-time reports appear as individual points on Google Maps. Moreover, small icons like construction signs, crashed cars or speed cameras represents those datas.




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