Google Maps is, without doubt, the most convenient mapping service around, earning millions of users worldwide thanks to its simple user interface and fast, reliable navigation.
Google isn't resting on its laurels, though, as it's always looking at ways to improve its route guidance. In particular, Google is looking at how to create more accurate traffc reports and journey time predictions.
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You see, Google currently uses multiple ways to assess traffic conditions, including measuring the average traffic speed along a route. So when you put in a destination, Google will look at how fast cars are moving on your route, calculate the average speed, and then figure out if this is the best route for you too.
Obviously there are flaws with this method – and even Google admits that “determining the average traffic speed along a route without taking into account [different] lanes is likely to lead to inaccurate average traffic speed.”
So, with that in mind, Google is trying to calculate the travel speed on each lane. This would provide the mapping and routing engine with more accurate traffic reports overall and could even recommend different routes or lanes depending on your eligibility.
For example, the lefthand lane of a three-lane motorway might be at a standstill due to a blocked exit, while the two other lanes have traffic flowing freely, or, in the US, some vehicles have access to special lanes, such as Carpool lanes, where the traffic could be much faster than on the others. This makes it incredibly difficult for Google to work out the average speed on a road.
Google has recently registered a patent (opens in new tab) called “Systems and methods for improved traffic conditions visualization” which details how it could address this problem and calculate the speed for each lane.
The end result would mean each driver would be provided with “the correct type of traffic information”. That could mean Google Maps suggesting which lane to use or alternative routes.
The patent details a number of ideas that Google has been exploring, including measuring the speed and analyzing traffic data for multiple points on the road. The system would then be able to determine the speed for each lane.
So, for example, if you do qualify for a carpool lane in the US, then you could get a more accurate traffic report based on the information collected specifically for your journey and Google would be able to provide you with a more accurate ETA.
We can't wait to see this feature rolled out in Google Maps and Android Auto, but it's worth noting, as always with patents, that it could take years to be rolled out in a public release, or it could never get a public release at all.