Sri Lanka Gets Google Traffic

We’ve had Google Maps in Sri Lanka for a while and it’s been tremendously useful. How did people ever find their way around without it, I wonder? They’d have had to stop and ask for directions at every corner (and Sri Lanka has a lot of corners).


Anyway, Google Maps was the best thing for travelers since sliced godamba. Most of Google Map’s features were available in Sri Lanka except for live traffic updates, until now. Just two days ago, most of Colombo’s netizens erupted in smartphone-fueled glee when the latest update to the Google Maps app finally brought live traffic updates to the country. It is a pretty useful feature to have especially with the terrible traffic Colombo suffers from now.


To use the feature, click on the menu to the left of the app and then select ‘Traffic’. Highly congested areas of road will be marked in red while faster moving sections will be marked in green. It even shows areas under construction. It is a pretty fantastic service to be honest, and I could see myself checking traffic whenever I step out of the house.




And, as you can see, Colombo gets pretty congested during morning rush hour.


How does Google know how much traffic is clogging up our roads? If you have enabled Google Maps with My Location, your phone sends anonymous bits of data back to Google about where you are and how fast you are moving. Combining this data with those from other users who have turned on this feature, Google can get an idea of where vehicles are and if they are moving or not.


From the Google Blog: “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. It takes almost zero effort on your part — just turn on Google Maps for mobile before starting your car — and the more people that participate, the better the resulting traffic reports get for everybody.”


So if you do find a stretch of road that is full of traffic but not marked on Google Maps, then it is probably those pesky Apple Maps users’ fault.


If you are worried about privacy, you can always opt out. But the data collected by Google is pretty much anonymous and the beginning and end of each journey is permanently deleted so you don’t have to worry about anyone knowing where you started from and where you are going. It’s pretty awesome to finally have live traffic updates in Sri Lanka, and it might help reduce some congestion by getting people to use alternate routes.

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