Car and Driver (USA)
Faster Route Now Available
A handful of apps and GPStracking companies are revolutionizing the way we experience traffic.
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.