How Google Maps Traffic Works?

Getting a Google Maps traffic update before departure for work isn't a big deal for you, however have you ever questioned how Google tracks live traffic. There’s no rocket science behind this, however Google needs to do lots of complex work, simply to serve you the real-time traffic updates in your area.

If you reside in some popular cities in the world, Google Maps show Live Traffic on the Roads, for the area you're viewing on the map.

Not simply the Live traffic, Google Maps will even predict the future Traffic that might get on a selected Road/Route, for a selected day/date/time combination. This prediction is primarily based upon the information that was obtained on same day, last week, last month or last year.

How Google Maps Live Traffic Works?

Google Maps Live Traffic

The traffic information comes from multiple sources so as for it to be considered reliable. It's comparatively simple to place in road sensors, say each mile on major highways, that monitors the speed of vehicles going by. However they are costly. Thus a corporation or municipality pays for the sensors, and then it sells the info.

Google gathers GPS information it receives from smartphones and uses it to analyze their speed and location. Google has assigned separate colours for various traffic levels, like red is for highly congested traffic. So, if a lot of smartphones are there at one place, the colour of the maps overlay changes to red. Google’s intelligent algorithms exclude vehicles like postal service Vans, as they take a lot of frequent stops and will alter the traffic information.

Google additionally crowdsources location information from telecommunication operators. These telecom operators monitor user location information by a technique known as Trilateration, within which the distance of a user measured from 2 or 3 surrounding towers is used to analyze the speed and location of the user.

“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.” 


The actual mind behind working of Google Traffic is ZipDash which is a traffic analysis company which Google bought back in 2004.

Even if traffic information is updated after couple of minutes, the accuracy varies based mostly upon amount of sources of the information. Therefore if in an area, many users use smartphones for directions, Google Maps would be able to predict traffic info more accurately.

Privacy concerns for Google Maps

Google Map

According to Google they have created this service keep privacy of users in mind from start. Google says that the speed and location data is first completely anonymized before sending it to Google.

“We understand that many people would be concerned about telling the world how fast their car was moving if they also had to tell the world where they were going.”


After tracking and analyzing the received information data, Google permanently erases it from its servers. Google also offers an option to Opt-out from location tracking by Google Maps server for more privacy concerned users.


Google has made our life simpler. One cannot imagine internet without Google and in fact for most of us Google is actually the internet.

So next time whenever you’ll use Google Maps for Live Traffic updates, you must praise Google for the amount of efforts they put for the accuracy and speed they offer while collecting Live Traffic info for you.