News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 22, 2014

Traffic monitoring services can help you navigate

Check web sites, apps before you hit the road

Dianne Frances D. Powell
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Heading out the door and you want to know what traffic looks like? To borrow Apple’s now ubiquitous catchphrase, “There’s an app for that.”

With the season of road construction just around the corner, the Google Maps app — specifically its traffic view — may just help you plan your commute. This view can give you current traffic conditions spread over on the map.

It’s also easy to use.

After downloading the app on your smartphone or tablet, tap to open the app. If it is your first time using the app, it will first ask you to agree to its terms and conditions, a standard procedure for most apps these days. One of the conditions you may need to understand is how Google collects data and how it is able to bring you real-time traffic updates.

“Part of what makes your Google Maps experience so fluid is data — and lots of it,” according to Google’s website. “You can help improve Google, including products and services like traffic, by allowing location data to be anonymously crowdsourced by Google’s location service from your device.”

After agreeing to the terms and conditions, it may then ask you to sign in to Google to personalize the experience. Signing in will allow the device to remember your previous searches and favorite places.

But this step is not completely necessary. You may still use the app without signing in to your Google account. Because the experience relies on location data collected from users, you would need to click “OK” when asked to enable your location, which should be the next question it asks you.

Once you’ve gone through all the formalities, you should be ready to use the app. You can see your location by tapping the chevron button on the bottom-left of the screen. After tapping, you should see a blue dot on the map, which indicates your approximate location.

To access the traffic view, touch the side menu (at the bottom) or swipe the edge of your screen from left to right. A side menu called “Views” will open and you can then select the traffic option (at the top).

Once selected, the map will show you current traffic conditions by using a color-coded scheme. In major highways or roads, green means traffic is moving at speeds of more than 50 miles per hour; yellow means 25-50 miles per hour; red means less than 25 miles per hour; and red/black means very slow, stop-and-go-traffic, according to Google Maps. Gray means no data currently available.

On smaller roads that have lower speed limits, “the colors give an indication of the severity of the traffic,” Google stated on its website.

Green means that traffic conditions are good, yellow means fair, and red or red/black means poor traffic conditions.

While the device may automatically show you the roads you are looking for after it identifies your location, you can also type roads and cities in the search box at the top of the screen. On Tuesday, Google announced that its mobile maps now also includes updates on accidents, construction and road closures.

While many people may use the Google Maps app on a smartphone or tablet, it is important to note that the traffic view is also accessible from a desktop. With a computer connected to the Internet, type maps.google.com into the browser to go the Google Maps website.

Click on the arrow down on the right hand top corner of the map (below a picture that says “satellite”) and select “traffic.” It will show the map with the same color-coded scheme and a legend at the bottom.

Happy travels!