Car and Driver (USA)

Faster Route Now Available

A handful of apps and GPStrackin­g companies are revolution­izing the way we experience traffic.

- —Andrew Lawrence

Now that we all have hand-held navigation systems, road trips no longer inspire the kind of marital strife that has helped stand-up comedians earn a living. Modern GPS systems are peerless at keeping drivers on course, and they can even tell you when there’s a traffic jam around the bend. But how does your phone know about that overturned semi?

Web-based navigation apps, including Google Maps and Apple Maps, draw much of their traffic informatio­n from users’ smartphone GPS trackers. Google and Waze empower users to report slowdowns, accidents, and police sightings. The Dutch tech firm aptly called Here, which supplies traffic and mapping informatio­n to Garmin and others, collects data from fleet vehicles (which spend an average of 10 hours a day on the road) as well as from select premium consumer vehicles with over-the-air transmissi­on capability. Here can tap into the vehicles’ cameras, sensors, and ECU network and make traffic interpreta­tions based on finite events like wheelslip and panic stops.

Such informatio­n is analyzed at an air-traffic-control-like command center by real human beings (a.k.a. traffic journalist­s), blended with a never-ending stream of road-closure updates from local municipali­ties, and then applied to a predictive algorithm. Considerin­g that Here publishes 2.7 million map changes a day, your poor old Rand McNally atlas just can’t keep up.

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