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Government agencies, other sources powering Google Maps traffic data in India

Government agencies, other sources powering Google Maps traffic data in India

Google announced the launch of turn by turn navigation and traffic data for Maps in India on Wednesday. While turn by turn navigation has been available in other apps, Google is offering it at the best possible price: for free.

Traffic data overlaid over Maps is a brand-new feature in India, and one that caught our interest the most. NDTV's Kunal Dua had a chance to pose a few questions over email to Darren Baker, Product Manager, Google Maps, and, naturally, the conversation started with traffic data.

Kunal Dua: The first question on my, and I'm sure everyone else's mind - where are you sourcing the traffic data from?

Darren Baker:  The traffic data comes from a variety of sources, including government departments of transportation, private data providers, and users of Google Maps for mobile who contribute anonymous speed information through our traffic crowdsourcing feature.

Kunal Dua: What government departments are involved and what level of data do they provide?

Darren Baker:  I'm afraid I can't share any details at the moment.

Kunal Dua: How often is the traffic data updated?

Darren Baker:  Traffic data is refreshed every few minutes with the most recent known conditions. The accuracy can vary depending on the number of data sources providing speed information to Google - for example, in a city where a lot of people are using Google Maps for mobile and contributing speed information through traffic crowdsourcing, the traffic data may be more accurate than another city where their aren't as many users. If we don't believe we have enough data to publish reasonably accurate results, then we don't publish it at all. This is why some roads will show traffic data at some times of day and not at others.

Kunal Dua: We're surprised to see Kolkata not in the list of cities included for traffic data. Any plans of expanding to the city, and, indeed, other Indian citifies?

Darren Baker:  The Google Maps team is always interested in bringing our features to as many cities and countries as possible, and live traffic data is no exception.  We recognise that Kolkata is a major Indian city and we hope to extend live traffic information to Kolkata soon, but we chose not to include it in today's announcement because our traffic data is less complete there than in the cities that were launched today.  As we collect additional data and we grow more confident that we can provide reliable traffic information in Kolkata and other cities, we will enable the traffic feature in those areas.  

Kunal Dua: Turning our attention to navigation, will it work in offline mode? There are a lot of areas in India without data connectivity, the feature will definitely be handy in such areas.

Darren Baker: Like most Google services, Google Maps is designed to bring the power of cloud services and online data to users on both desktop and mobile devices.  As a result, the Google Maps app and Google Maps Navigation have been designed to work best with a consistent mobile Internet connection, and fully offline routing is not currently supported.  Of course, we recognise that mobile networks are not perfectly reliable even in densely populated areas, so Google Maps Navigation will continue to work correctly if you're moving along your route but you lose your data connection temporarily.  In fact, the app can even reroute you back to the correct path if you take a wrong turn while you're missing an Internet connection.

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Further reading: Darren Baker, Google, Google Maps
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