How much will my commute suck today? Ask Google

I was checking out Google Maps yesterday and noticed the addition of traffic to the map. It showed that traffic for the ride home was much worse than I’ve ever seen on a Wednesday night. Figuring it was a first-day glitch, I took the usual route home. I should have listened to the computer.

Although Google has had traffic on their mobile maps product since July 2006 (and Yahoo! has had it on Yahoo! Maps for even longer), this is a welcome addition. I’ve used Yahoo! Maps, and a few others, but this the first one that I’ve bookmarked.

The primary reason is that it’s easy to use and understand — one glance at the screen and I have a good sense of how much my commute will suck. Google also has coverage of Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway, which I haven’t seen on any of the other sites.

That said, it’s still a marginally useful tool. In the time it takes me to shut down the computer, get in the car and start my commute it’s very possible that a fresh accident 10 miles away will prolong my commute.

There are a couple of ways to make the data much more useful:

  • Alert me when my commute is going to suck more than usual. I would love a gadget that shows significant differences from the typical day. I know my commute is going to suck; if it’s going to be especially hellish, I can get more things done at the office.
  • Use historical traffic data in calculating map routings. When I started at AOL, my development team was part of the Mapquest group in Lancaster, Pa. When we were planning a visit, they told us to ignore the Mapquest directions – during the hours we were driving, it would take us an extra 90 minutes because of traffic on the Beltway. The driving directions tool could prompt users for when they plan to travel and route accordingly.

About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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