Thursday, January 31, 2019

Do You Know How Live Traffic Works on Google Maps?

google maps live traffic data

“Look Before you leave”This tagline says many things when one sees the TV advertisement of Google Maps. If you are using Google services then surely they are tacking you wherever you go. Nowadays more and more people are using Google Maps and they don’t like asking for directions to people so they just opened their Google map app and follow the directions. So Google maps collect data like your location, routes to the destination and how many people(devices) are there to calculate the traffic data.

What is Google Maps?

Google Maps Navigation is Mobile based Application developed by Google Inc. for the Android and iOS operating systems. The application uses an Internet connection to a GPS navigation system to provide turn-by-turn voice-guided instructions on how to arrive at a given destination. The application requires connection to Internet data (e.g. 3G, 4G, WiFi, etc.) and normally uses a GPS satellite connection to determine its location. A user can enter a destination into the application, which will plot a path to it. The app displays the user's progress along the route and issues instructions for each turn.

How Google Maps Calculate Traffic?

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

Google Traffic:

Google Traffic is a feature on Google Maps that displays traffic conditions in real time on major roads and highways. Google Traffic can be viewed at the Google Maps website, or by using the Google Maps app on a handheld device.

Google Traffic works by analyzing the GPS-determined locations transmitted to Google by a large number of mobile phone users. By calculating the speed of users along a length of road, Google is able to generate a live traffic map. Google processes the incoming raw data about mobile phone device locations and then excludes anomalies such as postal vehicles which make frequent stops. When a threshold of users in a particular area is noted, the overlay along roads and highways on the Google map changes color.

Also read: Self Driving Cars - The Future of Driving

How Google Analyzes:

The Data You Send to Google: Every time you use Google Maps and allow it to access your location, the app will also send location data back to its servers. That way, when your location is on a roadway, Google is able to analyze in real-time whether you’re actually moving or if you’re stuck in traffic. By pooling data from millions of users around the clock, Google is also able to see when and where you can expect heavy traffic.

The Algorithm and Crowd-sourcing: 
google maps live traffic data
Google provided traffic data based on running the algorithm on historical data, which doesn’t come out to be so accurate. After that Google uses third-party data and tools and now with the help of Crowd-sourcing, Google made a very fine judgment of traffic. Yes, Google gathers live data from the crowd. All those people who are currently using Google Map or using an Android device with Location tracking or GPS enabled, are eventually providing anonymous data to  Google with speed and location information. This makes Google track live data, process the data with the algorithm to determine congestion considering all important factors and limitations and ultimately used to render the traffic layer on Google Map for free to all users.

The Road: Mostly Google covers highways and arterials roads to predict the traffic when data is available. This data is stored on Google database servers. Ultimately Google applies the mining process on this data and runs prediction algorithm to provide “Typical Traffic” or “Future Traffic” behavior. This is how Google Maps traffic prediction works.

Also Read: How Alexa, Ok Google and Siri works?

The Improvements: Early versions of Google Maps relied only on data from traffic sensors, most of which were installed by government transportation agencies or private companies that specialize in compiling traffic data. Using radar, active infrared or laser radar technology, the sensors are able to detect the size and speed of passing vehicles and then wirelessly transmit that information to a server.
Data from these sensors can be used to provide real-time traffic updates, and, once collected, the information becomes part of the pool of historical data used to predict traffic volume on future dates. However, sensor data was largely limited to highways and primary roads because the sensors were typically installed only on the most heavily traveled or traffic-prone routes.

The Waze Effect
google maps live traffic data and waze
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, with small icons representing things like construction signs, crashed cars or speed cameras. This answers how Google knows about an accident, construction on roads and speed cameras.

How is Traffic On My Route - Reporting:

Traffic reporting is the near real-time distribution of information about road conditions such as traffic congestion, detours, and traffic collisions. The reports help drivers anticipate and avoid traffic problems. Traffic reports, especially in cities, may also report on major delays to mass transit that does not necessarily involve roads. In addition to periodic broadcast reports, traffic information can be transmitted to GPS units, smartphones, and personal computers.

There are several methods of gathering traffic data like speed and incident info, ranging from professional reporters to GPS crowdsourcing to combinations of both methods.

Also read: What is Blockchain?

  • INRIX uses its network of over 175 million vehicles and devices to gather speed data from mobile phones, trucks, delivery vans, and other fleet vehicles equipped with GPS locator devices including smartphones and Ford SYNC and Toyota Entune and much of Europe, South America, and Africa.
  • Google Traffic works by crowdsourcing the GPS information from phone users. By calculating the speed of users along a stretch of road, Google is able to generate a live traffic map. Its subsidiary, Waze, also allows users to report directly via a smartphone app.
  • TomTom Traffic uses crowd-sourced data from mobile phone users, along with data from traditional sources such as induction loops and traffic cameras.
  • Monitoring police radio frequencies. Some radio stations have agreements with states' highway patrol that permit a direct connection with a law enforcement computer. This enables real-time information gathering of the latest accident reports to highway patrol divisions.
  • Many areas have helicopters to overfly accident scenes and other areas of high traffic volume. For example, by the company Global Traffic Network.
  • Traffic cameras
  • Giditraffic is an online social service which employs crowdsourcing as its primary means of providing real-time traffic updates to subscribers. The service is delivered free of charge.
  • RoadPal uses crowd-sourced data from mobile users as well as the social media to provide users with traffic information of places of interest to them.
  • Roadside speed sensors, either infra-red sensors for spot measurements or automatic number plate recognition for measuring speed between two sites (Trafficmaster have a network of sensors on motorways and trunk roads in the UK).

How Information is Transmitted?

  1. GPS units (see Integration of traffic data with navigation systems)
  2. Smartphones
  3. Radio voice RDS and TA
  4. Electronic road signs
  5. 5-1-1 traffic information phone line
  6. Television and web
Privacy Concerns:
Google has stated: "We understand that many people would be concerned about telling the world how fast their car was moving if they also had to tell the world where they were going". Google built in a number of features to safeguard the identities and locations of users who choose to provide Google with traffic data.
Opt-out option: Mobile devices which use Google's Android operating system come equipped with the ability to send location data to Google, while non-Android devices which use Google's map application are also able to transmit their location data to Google. However, options available in each phone's settings allow users not to share information about their location with Google Maps. On Google's website, detailed opt-out instructions are available for various devices and operating systems, including Android, BlackBerry, iPhone/iPod, Palm webOS, Symbian S60, Windows Mobile, and Sony Ericsson[. Google stated, "Once you disable or opt out of My Location, Maps will not continue to send radio information back to Google servers to determine your handset's approximate location.

The anonymity of location data: Google has stated that the speed and location information it collects to calculate traffic conditions is anonymous. Google also identifies the start and end points of every trip it monitors and permanently deletes that data so that information about where each user came from and went to remains private. 

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