Google Mobile Maps Smooths Traffic Tie-Ups - InformationWeek
10:00 AM

Google Mobile Maps Smooths Traffic Tie-Ups

The service provides free access to real-time traffic information on cell phones.

Google's mission is to organize the world's information, and when you're driving in a crowded metro area, knowing your way around and what traffic conditions are like can be very important information indeed. A new free service from Google lets you get directions and traffic info, as long as you have a cell phone that can accommodate it.

You can download Google Mapes using your phone's Web browser

You can download Google Maps using your phone's Web browser. Samsung SPH-A940 cellphone seen here.
The latest beta version of Google Mobile Maps works with several dozen cell phones from most U.S. carriers. If yours supports it, you can download Google Maps using your phone's Web browser. You then use the keypad and arrow keys to display a map that shows traffic directions and conditions. Although Google doesn't charge for the service or its data feed, your cell phone carrier might.

I tested the Google Maps service on the Sprint network using a Samsung SPH-A940 and on Cingular Wireless using a BlackBerry 8700c. When you load the service, you get a menu that you can use to find a business, find a location, get directions, or see a satellite view. Traffic data works by color coding: Roads that are green are running at the speed limit, yellow designates some congestion, and red indicates a traffic jam. Traffic data is turned on by default, but you can turn it off.

If you select a location, you'll see the general area around it, but you can easily scroll out to see a larger portion of the area. You also can use your phone's arrow keys to scroll around the map.

Another option is "get directions," which requires you to enter your starting point and destination. You get a route overview with distance, the time it should normally take, and the traffic delay time. The phone displays a map along with directions. Each time you need the next stage of your directions, you hit the "3" button on your phone for "Next."

Real-Time Route
To test the device, I plotted a route for a Bay Area drive from Palo Alto to Berkeley along the busy Highway 101. When I checked the map, it showed mostly green with some yellow along portions of the corridor between Palo Alto and San Francisco, and then patches of red in San Francisco and on the approach to the Bay Bridge. To see if the map was correct I called the traffic department at KCBS (the AM news station where I do daily tech reports); according to the traffic coordinator, all of the congested spots I saw matched what she had from her maps.

That's the good news. The bad news is that it's dangerous to use Mobile Maps while driving. The other problem is that it's hard to get a good overview of the area as well as advice on alternative routes. Also, Google Mobile Maps doesn't use GPS even with a GPS-enabled cell phone, so you have to use the arrow keys to track your trip, and you're on your own for finding your exact location.

Still, if you know the area and alternative routes--and don't mind pulling over to check your directions--Google Mobile Maps is a useful service to have, and it can help you reach your destination a little faster.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
2017 State of IT Report
2017 State of IT Report
In today's technology-driven world, "innovation" has become a basic expectation. IT leaders are tasked with making technical magic, improving customer experience, and boosting the bottom line -- yet often without any increase to the IT budget. How are organizations striking the balance between new initiatives and cost control? Download our report to learn about the biggest challenges and how savvy IT executives are overcoming them.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Top IT Trends for 2018
As we enter a new year of technology planning, find out about the hot technologies organizations are using to advance their businesses and where the experts say IT is heading.
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll