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7/25/2006
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Commuting? Google Feeds Live Traffic Info To Cell Phones

A new Google service sends changing traffic conditions and reports to mobile devices in real time.

Google Inc. on Tuesday launched a feature that lets U.S. consumers view live highway traffic data on cellular phones.

The service, offered in more than 30 major metropolitan cities, and some information in many others, sends traffic reports and other information as it happens directly to mobile devices.

Google aggregates data on changing traffic conditions in real time from several unnamed sources, said Gummi Hafsteinsson, Google manager for the mobile group.

"If you're looking at the handset you can actually see the data change in real-time," Hafsteinsson said. "With the new feature you have a traffic overlay with colors like green for free flowing traffic, yellow means slowing down, and red indicates a complete stop,"

After downloading Google Maps for mobile through their mobile phone's Web browser, users select "show traffic" in the menu. The most up-to-date traffic information streams directly to the users' mobile device, and will highlight the conditions on the covered commuter routes using red, yellow, and green overlays.

When mobile phone users search for driving directions, they will now see the expected drive time as well as any unexpected traffic delays. Another new feature offers the ability to store favorite searches and driving directions. The feature provides access to frequently used routes and can compare traffic conditions.

Some frequent business travelers say they find the service useful. Paul Chang lives in the Washington, D.C. area, but does most of his business travels for IBM Corp. elsewhere in the United States, says he'd find an application that streams live traffic data to the user's cellular phone very useful.

Others agree with Chang. "The notion of real-time streaming traffic information is critical to any traveling professional," said Rob Murphy, a salesman for a technology speech-recognition software company in Connecticut. "A traffic advisory Web site like Map Quest is valuable, but having traffic information available on the mobile phone is extremely handy."

Although the Google application is free to download and install on Java-enabled phones, cellular carriers will likely charge consumers data rates to stream the information, Hafsteinsson said

Google already makes available on the cellular phone Gmail, from their phone's web browser, Google Maps, Google SMS, Google News, Google Personalized Home, and several search features.

Google also said that users now have the ability to customize content that appears on the mobile version of their Personalized Homepage. Logging into Personalized Home on their computer desktop lets users click on the "mobile" link to customize the content they see the next time they bring up the page on their mobile device.

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