Google update adds automatic traffic info to Maps Navigation

Beta Google application gives users historic and real-time traffic data for trip planning

Google Monday announced Maps Navigation beta software, which it says can automatically route drivers around high traffic areas as determined by an analysis of current conditions and historical traffic patterns.

[ See also: 10 things you can track in real time with Google Maps ]

The update, disclosed in a Google blog post on Monday, builds on previous Google Maps Navigation capabilities that allowed users to choose the fastest route or an alternate one based on their preference to, for example, use back roads instead of highways.

Nearly three years ago, Google announced that the navigation tool set could let users see typical traffic conditions for a given day and time, as well as whether accidents and/or construction was slowing traffic at the time of travel.

The latest update, explained in the blog posted by Roy Williams, a software engineer on the company's Google Maps team, includes an example of a recent trip to New York where he used Navigation to route him around traffic.

"I didn't even have to know that there was a traffic jam on I-495 and I got to enjoy a much faster trip on I-278 instead," he wrote. Using the I-278 route added about a mile to the trip -- but it was 12 minutes faster due to the constriction delays on I-495, he added.

While the new traffic software is automatic, that does not prevent a user from turning on a traffic layer capability in Google Maps to see current traffic conditions. The update targets users looking for driving directions. Alternate routes are also available.

Google Maps Navigation, first introduced in October 2009 and updated many times, works on Android devices and is still technically in beta. It is now an Internet-connected GPS navigation system with voice guidance.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen , or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is .

Read more about web 2.0 and web apps in Computerworld's Web 2.0 and Web Apps Topic Center.

This story, "Google update adds automatic traffic info to Maps Navigation" was originally published by Computerworld.

ITWorld DealPost: The best in tech deals and discounts.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon