Ever Wonder How Google Knows About Live Traffic And Where There is A Traffic Jam?

Almost a billion people use google maps every month. It’s one of the best navigation tool that comes for free. The ability to find local businesses and review help us all decides where we are going to our next meal.

Google also reports live traffic data for free in Google maps when you enable the traffic layer. Google maps also report traffic incidents and construction zones in certain cities.

But how Google knows about live traffic Jams and other traffic related real time incidents?

Google collects data from different sources, which are:

  1. All android devices with a GPS send location data back to Google (Yes with your permission)
  2. On all other devices: You send your location and speed data back to Google when you use Google Maps for navigation.
  3. Waze (Another navigation app) also contributes to Google’s live traffic feed
  4. In many countries Google has agreement with monitoring companies to collect anonymous data
  5. Google has contracts with public traffic department (highway authorities etc) to receive their sensor data anonymously.

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The result is live traffic situation in Jakarta, Indonesia:

Jakarta Traffic Google Maps - How Google Knows About live Traffic


Different colors on highways/road in Google Maps translate to:

  1. Green: There are no traffic delay
  2. Orange: There is a medium amour of traffic
  3. Red: Heavy traffic, expect delays
  4. Dark Red: Traffic is not moving at all

How does google know what color to put on what road at any given time? The answer is simple. All mobile users who share their location and speed data with google help Google to figure out the average number of users on a specific road and how fast they are moving. The data is collected in a way that your personal identity is not revealed to Google or any third party.

So one question that comes to mind is how does google still report a Green road (Traffic running smoothly) if there is no car at all travelling on that road?

Google also collects data from different highway authorities and their sensors report data to Google and it is then reported in Google maps. Below is nice view of European highways:

Europe Traffic Google Maps - How Google Knows About live Traffic

Google also reports the time it would take you to travel from one location to another.

Yankee to Meuseum - How Google Knows About live Traffic

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Here the Blue line means the shortest route between these two points. Gray line is an alternate route which is 3 minutes slower.

Yankee to Meuseum Trains - How Google Knows About live Traffic

In most cities Google also give your information about how you can commute between two points using public transport such as trains, metros and Taxis etc.

Yankee to Meuseum Taxi - How Google Knows About live Traffic

Different options to hire a taxi between two points.

Yankee to Meuseum  - How Google Knows About live Traffic

Or you can choose to cycle 16 kilometers 🙂

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