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Unless you’re an unusually big fan of the radio, traffic information can be remarkably hard to come by. Luckily, anyone with a smartphone is about to get a new secret weapon.

Starting this week, Google Maps is expanding their traffic layer to cover all U.S. highways and a good chunk of ancillary roads, meaning a comprehensive traffic map like the one above is just a few clicks away. If you enable “My Location” (yes, that’s GPS tracking), your friends at Mountain View will monitor how fast your car is moving, combine it with countless other hapless commuters, and shoot back a comprehensive map of the slowest crawling traffic in your area. And the data will get better and better as more people get GPS tracking phones, so you can expect a constantly improving survey of your grim morning transport options.

The data’s deleted at the end of every trip so nobody will know you’re driving to your mistress’s house, but the data still has uses far beyond the morning commute. Civil engineers can use it to map out future highways, entrepreneurs can use it to plot the perfect location for the next Starbucks, and anyone planning a move would do well to check out their new neighborhood’s congestion well beforehand. Of course, there’s no guarantee it’ll make the world any less congested…but you might feel better about sitting in traffic.

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom