Google quietly pulls flawed travel times from Maps

Apparently dealing with traffic jams is tough even for Google

Google has removed a service that predicted travel times with traffic from the browser-based version of Google Maps.

Google Community Manager Daniel Mabasa announced the change in the Google help forum in response to a question from a user who noticed that ETA with traffic had disappeared from Google Maps.

"...We have decided that our information systems behind this feature were not as good as they could be," Mabasa said. "Therefore, we have taken this offline and are currently working to come up with a better, more accurate solution."

Apparently the "information systems behind" the feature weren't bad enough to remove the service from mobile. Google Maps for Android and iOS both still predict travel times with traffic.

What's interesting is Google Maps Navigation Android App was recently updated to help steer users clear of traffic jams. The data reportedly comes from others who are using Google Maps on their smartphones.

We found a 2009 blog post from Google that says a phone with an active Google Maps App "sends anonymous bits of data back to Google describing how fast you're moving. When we combine your speed with the speed of other phones on the road, across thousands of phones moving around a city at any given time, we can get a pretty good picture of live traffic conditions. We continuously combine this data and send it back to you for free in the Google Maps traffic layers."

Sounds like Google is able to interpret that data well enough to show us where traffic is, but not enough to tell us how long it will take to get through it.

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Paul Suarez

PC World (US online)
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