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Google Offering Live Traffic Maps via Cell Phones 178

Posted by Zonk
from the live-sat-feeds-would-be-cooler dept.
Kranfer writes "Reuters is covering the newest offering from Google: real-time traffic mapping on your cell phone. Now you can check how the traffic is ahead of you, of course as long as you don't cause the traffic incident yourself by checking the local issues on your cell phone while driving. Point your cell phone browser to http://google.com/gmm to get your local traffic maps if you live within one of the 30 U.S. cities where this is available."
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Google Offering Live Traffic Maps via Cell Phones

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  • I don't like this (Score:4, Insightful)

    by millisa (151093) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @11:27AM (#15776275)
    Normally I am supportive of google and their endeavors . . . but I would argue that doing anything to *encourage* someone to be on their phone while driving wouldn't fall under the mantra 'Dont be evil'. It's bad enough people are talking and text messaging, but giving those retards who can't drive already an incentive to be less attentive . . .

    You KNOW the times it'll be most hit is when people are stuck in traffic, which is when they should be most attentive to the road, not to their toys.

    Bleh to this.
    • Re:I don't like this (Score:1, Interesting)

      by gigne (990887)
      I take it you disapprove of GPS navigation aids, or for that matter, a radio that might equally well distract you. Given that to use a phone in a car you have to have a holder or hands free kit (at least in the UK), doesn't this make it very similar to a GPS?
      • by millisa (151093) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @11:36AM (#15776356)
        Similar, but not the same. Navigational tools have hardware designed for that purpose. They are made with few buttons that can relay directions with the least amount of distraction. Cell phones generally aren't made this way since for some reason in the last 5 years they are to be the all-in-one wonder device (rather than a phone...). It means people will spend more time fiddling with the devices than they have any right to while driving a machine that can easily take lives. Even if there were 'hands-free' options created, I no more want some doof who's easily distracted using his phone than I want my doctor talking on his phone with a hands free kit while operating on me.

        Radios aren't the same as they are passive devices (except for those ADD types who can't leave the dial alone, and in that case, they are just as bad . .not a justification for something that is worse to be 'ok').

        If it takes your eyes off the road, it is bad. Plain and simple. Live traffic updates on a cell phone is just about guaranteed to do this.
        • Talking on a hands-free kit is the same as talking to someone behind you in the same car. Would you bad talking in cars? In the UK we had this same fine line to avoid crossing concerning hands-free legislation.

          Maybe they should add messing with your radio to the driving test, but they're legal and it's the driver's responsibility to use it and control the vehicle.
        • Agreed, but there is so little distinction between the 'converged' devices these days that There is no real difference. Take my TomTom. It has MP3, video you name it. In fact to to navigate/re-route takes an immense amount of finger poking. Now lets look at the stereo. My car came with a fancy all singing stereo. Now i'm not you ADD type who can't leave things alone, but thing thing is lit up like a christmas tree. There are so many buttons and dials it's nigh on impossible to figure out how to skip the tr
        • Re:I don't like this (Score:4, Interesting)

          by hackstraw (262471) * on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @12:46PM (#15776849)

          Sure, there are similarities and differences between using a cell vs a radio, but I believe that the current cell implementation is much, much worse.

          Similarities, people can be distracted while fiddling with cells and radios. More so with changing a CD than changing the station. But it pretty much stops there.

          Cell phone conversations while driving seem to be increasing and the radio is pretty much a constant. Cell phone users while driving often appear (and statistically are similar) to drunk drivers. Actually, they drive worse because drunk drivers are more careful because they are scared of being caught. They often drive below the speed limit and/or speed of traffic. They make erratic and impulsive turns. They don't stay in their lanes. They are more engaged in their conversation than driving. The list goes on.

          I would bet that my cell phone driver vs drunk driver detection skills have a ratio of about 10:1 probably closer to 50:1.

          Now, with the new Google offering. Close but no cigar.

          I've been talking about a new p2p user contributed realtime traffic, police, roadblock, etc monitoring system with a good UI that "just works".

          To me, that would be excellent, and will happen. Kinda like the CBs of yesteryear, but more 2006ish.

    • by Skreems (598317) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @11:35AM (#15776341) Homepage
      Personally, I would use this to check out my route BEFORE getting in the car, as that's when I'd need to know which route to take. Putting it on a cell phone is just handy because terminals aren't always available.

      I am curious why they don't have a "show traffic" option on their normal web-based interface, though... you'd think it would be pretty wildly popular with people about to leave to/from work.
      • I agree with that (Score:3, Insightful)

        by millisa (151093)
        I agree with you. I would use it on my consoles before going anywhere. The fact it is available on a phone is convenient and if most people were like you and checked before they drove and not while they drove, I'd be ra-ra-ing this as a great innovation.

        It's just unfortunate that there's a big enough percentage of people who aren't you that we all know this won't be when it's used.
        • by TopShelf (92521) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @11:47AM (#15776428) Homepage Journal
          Are you kidding? Just wait for the story to appear on Slashdot regarding the update frequency of this service:

          "I was driving along checking traffic on my cell phone, rear-ended someone in front of me, and my accident showed up on Google in just X minutes!"
          • Just put an impact detector on the thing (possible with location data) and your accident will show up instantly!
          • What is worse of course is the mobile traffic jam, as everybody keeps googling to the low traffic areas and within minutes those low traffic areas choke up traffic. A new patentable advertising scheme, pay enough money and google and co will direct all the traffic down your street.
      • Re:I don't like this (Score:4, Informative)

        by generic-man (33649) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @11:59AM (#15776527) Homepage Journal
        Seeing as though both Windows Live Local [live.com] (JavaScript) and Yahoo! Maps Beta [yahoo.com] (Flash) already let you view live traffic on the web, I'd guess it's only a matter of time before Google adds traffic as an option to their full-scale mapping app.
    • " but I would argue that doing anything to *encourage* someone to be on their phone while driving wouldn't fall under the mantra 'Dont be evil'."

      Try living in L.A.. If you're pulling out your phone to get a traffic update, the odds are pretty darned good you're already stopped.
    • 50-50 agreeing or not on your comment. Since it is true that it can take your eyes off the road, smart people who wants to check the maps stop at the side of the road and checks it safely. Don't blame the tool, blame the user.
      • Don't blame the tool, blame the user.

        I agree with you, partly. Users are definitely responsible for misusing the tools they are given, but tool developers have the responsibility of creating tools that don't facilitate potentially damaging uses, or do so in the smallest way possible. We already know people are stupid, so we should develop tools under that assumption.

        • What you say is true, but in the same line of thought, we shouldn't make a lot of other tools because of the same reason. Just think about nuclear power. With all of the very good uses we can give it, stupid people go and blast a lot of innocents using it. I completely agree that people are stupid. But not all. I still have some faith in mankind. Otherwise it would be very, very sad.
    • by madstork2000 (143169) * on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @11:44AM (#15776408) Homepage
      You don't necessarily have to be on the phone while driving, you could be a passenger. You could check it before leaving for work/home you could check it while at the gas station en-route.

      Yes people will likely abuse it, like they abuse other tools. Complaining about useful tools. that could be abused is irritating and pointless.

      Maybe they should shutdown their search engine too, I heard you can search for porno, bomb making materials, drug recipes, and lots of other naughty stuff. Heck maybe they should shut down the whole Internet because you KNOW people use it to steal credit card numbers, send spam and exploit children.

      Short sighted, close minded people who shun new technology really drive me crazy, mainly because this knee jerk mentality is most often associated with the politicians, and lobbyists.

      Oh well... My little comment and opinion won't change anything, but at least I got it off my chest.

      BtW... The mobile maps application seems pretty slick in the few minutes I played with it (sitting at the safety of my desk). I am looking forward to some real word trials.

      -MS2K
    • Re:I don't like this (Score:2, Informative)

      by babtrek (256300)
      I don't think its any more dangerous than the navigation systems in many cars now, now if they could make it talk to warn of problems.
    • Re:I don't like this (Score:2, Interesting)

      by texaport (600120)
      doing anything to *encourage* someone to be on their phone while driving

      Instead of cities having traffic cameras every two miles, maybe Google can get people to stop in traffic and take pictures with their phone so we can have live shots every 50 meters?

      A GoogleRewards program for every 10th upload from a major freeway.

    • Yeah, because helping a person who is stuck in traffic understand what caused the traffic jam is pure evil man, pure evil.
    • Well I do. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sublime_pie (935091)
      Bad drivers will crash regardless of the reason. I don't see how this is any more dangerous than trying to drive while looking at a paper road map or a Google maps printout thereof. This will be great for all of the times that I get lost only to find I don't have a map in my car. And sure, I could simply buy a map for my car, but where would the fun in that be? As for the traffic congestion, I don't see any danger in looking down at your cell phone and plotting out an alternative route while you're park
    • Drivers using cell phones for voice are bad enough, drivers trying to *look* at their cell phones are a truly terrifying thought.

      This may be the first time I'm actually *glad* I no longer have a street bike, and it's making me wonder if it's not time to trade in the Miata for a surplus HumVee with armor plating.
    • by katsiris (779774)
      Seems a little short-sighted to me. Yes, it's possible, and I agree probable, that people will check in their car. But what if I'm out and want to check conditions before I come home? Should I be denied this feature because some idiot might check it while driving? Should all society be locked into a bubbled room because one person might find a way to hurt themselves and others?

      Now, I still agree with you, but I imagine the intent here is a stepping stone to real-time in-car routing that factors traffic in

    • It's not like Google has a plan to fool every driver into using his cellphone while driving. This way raising the number of car crashes... what will make the insurance companies go bankrupt... causing a collapse to the USA economy ... what will bring the dollar value down, and will allow Google to buy the entire Country!!!

      Hummm, Brain... what are we going to do tonight?
    • Re:I don't like this (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Serengeti (48438)
      Everyone who navigates city streets does not necessarily drive a car.
    • All the idiots who would use this while driving are currently driving around looking at a map which they're holding on one hand, instead of watching the road and controlling their vehicle. The number of people who get ticketed for that every day is horrifying. Changing the thing they're holding isn't going to make a lot of difference.

      Smart people give the map, or the hardware, to their passenger. Or they pull over to consult it if they don't have a passenger.
  • Windows mobile? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by a_nonamiss (743253) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @11:29AM (#15776301)
    I'm running Windows Mobile 5.0, and I get "Google Maps may not work on on your cell phone. If you'd still like to try, download Google Maps for a high end phone or a mainstream phone."(US/Canada)

    If this thing's not going to work on Windows Mobile 5.0, I'm not sure for whom it's intended.
  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @11:29AM (#15776305) Homepage Journal
    First we have evidence that cell users are as bad as drunk drivers [slashdot.org] yet now we want these same people to use their 2"X2" cell phone screen to look at a map of their location to see if there is a traffic jam ahead.


    Wonderful.

    • That's a good point -- it seems like this would make a lot of sense integrated into the normal browser-based Google Maps app so that you can have a look at traffic and perhaps decide to change your route before leaving the house or office.

    • by truthsearch (249536) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @11:41AM (#15776391) Homepage Journal
      In NYC there are at least 2 AM stations that broadcast traffic reports every 10 minutes (880, 1010). My father's been listening to them since before I was born. This is far safer and probaby even easier than trying to bring it up on your cell. Plus they tell you what's going to be happening in the near future, like typical rush-hour traffic jams and construction.

      There are other options, so stay off the cell.
      • I count three (1010 on the ones, 1130 on the fives, 880 on the eights). I had all three set up to quickly cycle through 'em just as one ended and the other started up until I got Sirius.
      • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@NOSPAM.optonline.net> on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @11:58AM (#15776515) Journal

        And there you have it. You can already get this information via the radio in most metropolitan markets, so what's the point? Unless you're Speed Racer, real-time traffic updates aren't going to be of much use. And here's a little point to consider: where are they getting the traffic information from? Answer: the same sources that provide it to the radio and TV stations. Unless Google is going to build its own traffic sensing network (and don't put it past them), their data is only going to be as good as the last update you would get from the traffic reporting agencies anyway. Let's face it, when an accident happens, even with all the people who own mobile phones, how long does it take before it's reported to the traffic monitors? ANd even then, how many times have you heard reports of an accident that have long been over and traffic is flowing again, despite the traffic report saying that things are still backed up? Nope, this is just Google pushing the limits of what they should be doing to try and establish themselves in another niche market.

        • In NYC

          And there you have it. You can already get this information via the radio in most metropolitan markets, so what's the point?

          Just a quick FYI. NYC != most metropolitan markets. I live in a city with 2 million people and don't have this option. I for one welcome our new google traffic on cell phone overlords.

          Also, when am I going to get this to interact with dodgeball [slashdot.org], so I don't have to worry about losing my friends who are following me in the thick of battle^H^H^H^H^H^H^Htraffic
        • Maybe in New York this works, but here in the SF Bay Area it fails miserably. You can listen to the station that broadcasts traffic every 10 minutes, and since the Bay Area is so freaking huge, [i]they don't always announce all problems at all traffic breaks.[/i] So, you have to listen to the radio for 30 minutes to hear the announcement that the road you are on is slow, and oops, you're already in that traffic jam.

          Radio and other passive communication methods completely fail - I need to be able to say "I
          • Check out [http://www.sigalert.com/map.asp?Region=Bay+Area SigAlert]. It has free maps on the web, with average speed statistics. Also, for a fee, they can text you about traffic on your commute routes. Pretty impressive, all thanks to CalTrans data.

            -molo
        • You can already get this information via the radio in most metropolitan markets, so what's the point?

          The point is that when you can poll the traffic sensors via Google, rather than wait for "Traffic On The Ones" there's no race condition.

          It seems to happen far too frequently that just as the traffic report comes on, I enter a tunnel or some other AM interference zone and miss the 5 second mention of my particular route.

          Or, another all too common situation: I'm three minutes from a highway junction for

      • And they all suck. I've stopped trying to get useful traffic info from radio stations for a long time. It's either information that's about everywhere in the area except where you need to know about, or worse, information that's 1/2 hour or more out of date.

        This service is something badly needed.
      • Those stations are bullshit. The NYC metro area is gigantic and there is traffic in every corner. It is not possible for those stations to report on every traffic incident in the 30 seconds that they get. Therefore, they tend to focus on bridges/tunnels, then the routes in/out of the city center, and then only the seriously major delays are mentioned for everything else.
    • Alright, I'm really tired of this "cell phones as bad as being drunk." Does being on a cell phone distract you sometimes? Absolutely. Does it also help you stay awake on long drives? You bet. But what impact is it actually having on accidents?

      I think most people would agree (and yes, I'm making presumptions based on my own experiences and those I know) that they are able to identify more individuals who are obviously driving while on a cell phone (via visual inspection) than individuals who are obvio
      • Good point.

        The other problem I have with the "cellphones as bad as being drunk" claim is that if you look at the past 10 or 15 years, the number of cellphones has exploded; there ought to be a huge and obvious increase in the total number of auto accidents per year, roughly proportional to the adoption of cellphones. I've never seen anything that suggests this. In fact, the driving fatalities per million miles travelled has gone down over the past 10 years, as cellphone use has increased. While cars have go
  • Good Idea? (Score:3, Funny)

    by wawannem (591061) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @11:31AM (#15776315) Homepage
    I think I may have recently read somewhere that cellphones may be responsible for more accidents than Drunk Driving. So, why would would we add an interactive app to cell phones, when that app may only be useful when you are driving?
  • Palm no go (Score:5, Informative)

    by bucketoftruth (583696) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @11:36AM (#15776351)
    Note: Maps does not currently work with Nextel, T-Mobile USA or BREW-enabled phones (e.g. Verizon, Alltel, U.S. Cellular), or Palm devices.
    Doesn't work on my Treo 650. This is made for small cell phone people, who are different than us big cell phone people. I hope they choke on their tiny lozenge sized phones.
    • It works on my big 'ole Blackberry. As they say in technical circles, "nyah, nyah, nyah-nyah, nyah..."
    • My wife is in the same position - she's got the excellent Treo 650, yet Google Maps only runs on my (slow and exceedingly small-screened) LG PM-325.

      It looks like one possible solution is Mobile GMaps [mgmaps.com], which has the added advantage of also being able to use the Yahoo and Microsoft mapping services as well. Additionally, and this is very nice, it can use Bluetooth GPS or your phone's internal GPS system (if it has permissions and the right APIs - aka, if you're lucky).

      -Erwos
    • Doesn't work on my Motorola e815 either, which isn't a "big" cell phone... In fact, it looks like it doesn't work with any Verizon phone as Verizon is insistent on using Brew so they can charge for the apps. Can't have any free apps going around on their phone now, can we? Verizon's approach is to go after coverage, features be damned-- as what good are features if coverage sucks? Consequently, they have the best coverage and the worst feature set...
      • In fact, it looks like it doesn't work with any Verizon phone as Verizon is insistent on using Brew so they can charge for the apps.
        Works fine on my Verizon Blackberry, but I guess Blackberries might be an exception to that, since Verizon probably can't lock them down as much as they'd like.
  • Treo 650 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fdiskne1 (219834) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @11:36AM (#15776352)
    Here's what I see:

    Google Maps

    Sorry, Google Maps does not work on your Palm Treo-650.

    I figured I'd use it before heading out on the road to find the best way to get somewhere, NOT while driving. That'd just be foolish.

    • Re:Treo 650 (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tgeller (10260)
      I just got that, too.

      If it doesn't work on my device, for all practical purposes it doesn't exist. *shrug*

      (Not to mention that the Treo 650 is UNBELIEVABLY COMMON these days....)
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @11:42AM (#15776398)
    I'm concerned about my privacy. Are your satellite images real-time?
    We understand your privacy concerns and can assure you that the satellite images are taken from a variety of commercial and public resources and are not real-time in nature. The images that Google Maps displays are no different from what can be seen by anyone who flies over or drives by a specific geographic location.


    Whew! For a minute there I thought I saw black helicopters in my rear-view mirror soon after I searched Google traffic to go get a loaf of bread.
  • Note: Maps does not currently work with Nextel, T-Mobile USA or BREW-enabled phones (e.g. Verizon, Alltel, U.S. Cellular), or Palm devices.
    So what providers do work? The only ones I can think of are Cingular and Sprint.
  • Works for me... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jense (978975)
    i'm on sprint, and this works like a charm. the cell-while-you-drive concern is legit, but no more dangerous than any GPS system, IMHO. personally, i'm going to use it when i pull into that gas station and purposefully DON'T ask for directions. because now i don't have to. the ultimate justifier! my wife has no leg to stand on anymore.
  • CRASH! (Score:5, Funny)

    by stormi (837687) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @12:00PM (#15776531) Journal
    Wait... is that my car? Hey look! I can see myself crashing!

    Sorry.
  • What's with google and having pizza in all their mapping services... ... I say this while eating a slice of pizza at IBM ... :-)

    tom
  • Come on (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kohath (38547) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @12:05PM (#15776580)
    - Offer this on the web.
    - Get the destination from my Google Calendar
    - Calculate the time of travel to my destination. Factor in traffic and construction.
    - Tell me when I need to leave in order to arrive on time
    - Tell me alternate routes to take based on which one is fastest right now
    - Message me on my phone when it's time to leave.

    You have all the information. Put it together into something helpful.
    • Yes, why limit anything to cell-phones only? Any web-like service that might make sense on phones surely could be made available on a normal browser (and not incur per-minute cell-data fees either, even if you just want to try it out).

      In fact, if they made it available to try out on normal browsers first, that might get more people interested in it on their cell phones.

      Anyway, in the meantime, anyone aware of a cell-phone-browser-emulator for firefox?
      • One obvious point is that cellphones provide your position, and the map will show you a small area around that position. It isn't suitable for a browser, where you'd want to specify position, scroll around manually, and have a much larger screen.

        I did have the same thought, though. First, I tried to load the page in my browser. Then, I looked for a cell-phone emulator.
    • Well you forgot the last step.

      - profit
  • Data plan is required - I'm not paying the rip-off fees for that. If I want to check traffic conditions and speed maps I simply go on http://www.511.org/ [511.org] (In the SF Bay Area) and check the maps before I leave work. If I'm really desperate and none of the local radio stations are of any help, I just call 511 and get the same info as on the website.
    • Let me be the first to say:

      DUH!

      Why would you think there wouldn't be a data plan required? You are going to be downloading data, from google.com.
  • I had too many slowness problems using java on my phone that I had uninstall it.
    A simple html based page would have been much better.

    Will wait and see what Windows Live Local and Yahoo Maps will cookup. Maybe they will have a more workable product.
  • by Monkelectric (546685) <slashdot&monkelectric,com> on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @12:18PM (#15776665)
    Can anyone tell me why *NONE* of the google apps work with the Palm Treo?
  • Google refuses to list the areas where this is available. In their Help page, it says to find out where its available, go to that location and tell it to 'Show Traffic Info', and it will tell if you if it's not available...

    How helpful! Especially since their dang fake cell phone demo that they make you go to doesn't even seem to work correctly, so I cant even tell.

    Anyone have a list of cities where this is available?
  • For all of you complaining, it works great on my Blackberry 7130e with EVDO. I'm a long time user of Google Local (this is just the upgrade) on the device, and this adds some much needed features like:

    *Favorites -- now I don't have to type my home address in everytime I want to map from my house to somewhere else
    *Details about locations - how long is that place open? (only works with some places, none of which I can find yet)
    *Live traffic -- we'll see how well it actually works. Keep in mind, I know the int
  • by Penguin (4919) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @12:59PM (#15776950) Homepage
    Just for the sake of curiousity (and karma whoring) I took a couple of screenshots [ter.gld.dk] on my Nokia 9500.
  • "Sorry, Google Maps does not work on your LG C1300"

    Feh. I need a real phone.

    - Necron69
  • I'll stick with my arrangment [spiceware.org] of the Mobile Houston Real-Time Traffic Map [houstontranstar.org] that I made for my RAZR because the original layout requires you to scroll up/down to view the map on the RAZR's small display.

    For some reason my RAZR needed a WML page loaded before the HTML page. I also made arrangements for the close-ups of the different areas. All of which can be found
    here [spiceware.org]
  • How do I spoof the system so I can get this information from my computer before I leave the office?
  • Awesome! I have started really using the unlimited GPRS plan from my provider, if you're paying for 5M or similar, it's about $5USD/mo more to go unlimited and you get free text/picture msgs (not that i use the pictures) with my provider.
  • Interesting that their faq page says "Google Maps doesn't work with Nextel, T-Mobile USA or BREW-enabled phones"

    I installed it on my Nokia N90 that I have through t-mobile with their unlimited GPRS/EDGE plan and it works just fine.

  • I've been doing this for years on my Nokia 9300. In Holland real-time traffic maps are provided by the road club (ANWB). The pages are huge and overfilled with ads and stuff. I scrape the maps off the site with a PHP script, crop exactly the part I need (I have some standard routes) so the map and text information fits on the screen nicely.

    The 9300 is in a cradle (not a lame one against the windshield) and the php page auto refreshes every five minutes so it's all quite safe. Saves me a lot of hassle becaus
  • The greatest app to enter my life in the last 5 years is Google Maps on my recently-acquired T-Mobile SDA phone.

    For the $30/mo I pay for T-Mo's unlimited GPRS/EDGE + T-Mo Hotspot access, I have found my way to too many locations using Google Maps to count.

    Now that they've added traffic-density functionality, my drive can only get better... ...If only the "Show traffic" function (the "#" key) didn't peg the CPU and lock up the app. :(

    Other than that, the app is great and I love Google.

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