GPS + Web = Drive - Traffic
Once again, a free program on a cheap smartphone helped spare my wife and me from a little holiday traffic. Last year, we routed around some Thanksgiving-weekend congestion on the New Jersey Turnpike with help from a copy of Google Maps on a Palm device. This time around, we dodged a couple of tie-ups on Interstate 95 in Maryland.
I say "helped" because this application doesn't deserve all the credit. Each time, our first warning came from one of those overhead message signs, which was our cue to fire up Google Maps, press 0 to have it compute our location from nearby wireless transmitter-tower signals and check its display of traffic to see how bad and far along the congestion lasted. (During the second instance, we also confirmed the incident at a newspaper's Web site.) Duly informed, we took the next exit and let our car's GPS find a way back to the road beyond the traffic.
(In case you're curious, the first backup came not long after noon on Tuesday, between Aberdeen and the Susquehanna River on I-95 North; the second happened late Saturday night, when an unspecified accident closed the southbound lanes of the highway between I-695 and White Marsh.)
Without all of those ingredients, our trip could have been much worse. We might not have known when to look up traffic data (or the occupant of the passenger seat would have had to spend the trip glued to the phone's screen), or we would not have known when it would be safe to get back on the road, or we could have gotten lost in mid-detour.
But no one device combines all those functions. One that came close, the Internet-connected Dash Express, has vanished from the market since its developer elected to sell its software and service to other GPS vendors. Other standalone GPS devices, and a minority of in-car navigation units, offer limited traffic updates over extra-cost FM or satellite radio services but leave out any Internet connectivity. The smartphones that do offer Web access (not to mention the ability to route you to anybody in your address book) generally don't provide turn-by-turn navigation and come with screens too small for a solo driver to use.
I'm not sure how this gets fixed. Maybe in-car GPS receivers will be able to borrow a passenger's smartphone's Internet connection via Bluetooth; maybe HD Radio will finally gain mass-market relevance when it can relay traffic updates and other data services; maybe Dash's technology will take off once it's packaged in a mass-market brand of GPS unit; maybe future smartphones will come with bigger screens and suction-cup mounts for the windshield.
Your guess is as good as mine--so please, post it in the comments.
December 29, 2008; 12:31 PM ET
Categories: Gadgets , The Web
Save & Share: Previous: Present Unwrapping Open Thread
Next: Best-Of Lists Show Hollywood's Online Efforts At Their Best and Worst
Posted by: sidwellfriends | December 29, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: nashpaul | December 29, 2008 1:23 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: marybeth-telenav | December 29, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: snaab4 | December 29, 2008 1:50 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: snaab4 | December 29, 2008 1:55 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: marybeth-telenav | December 29, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: VeronaItaly | December 29, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: JkR- | December 29, 2008 3:20 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: pparrydc | December 29, 2008 4:03 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: sidwellfriends | December 29, 2008 5:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: reddy531 | December 29, 2008 6:00 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mhamner1 | December 29, 2008 11:06 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Ombudsman1 | December 30, 2008 8:44 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: sniz15 | December 30, 2008 9:43 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: bs2004 | December 30, 2008 11:47 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: sidwellfriends | December 30, 2008 1:45 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: whocares666 | December 30, 2008 3:49 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mpainesyd | January 5, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.