Google Maps 2.0: Google Develops Smart Alternative Routes to Avoid Traffic Jams

Google Maps 2.0 is poised to revolutionize navigation with its upcoming feature designed to intelligently suggest alternative routes, aiming to minimize time spent in traffic congestion

by Sededin Dedovic
Google Maps 2.0: Google Develops Smart Alternative Routes to Avoid Traffic Jams
© Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Google Maps is an essential app for many drivers, helping them predict traffic conditions and find faster routes. Now, Google is working on patenting a new feature that suggests alternative destinations to help drivers spend less time behind the wheel.

If you think Google Maps already does this, you haven’t read the previous sentence word for word. Google wants Google Maps to offer alternative routes with alternative destinations, helping you spend less time driving.

The company recently patented a new way of providing alternative routes in Maps 2.0, considering traffic-heavy zones and suggesting alternative destinations. It all starts with identifying traffic-heavy zones, which Google Maps already does exceptionally well.

The official documentation for “systems and methods for identifying traffic-heavy zones and suggesting alternative destinations to users” insists on “user consent”. Google says it can collect information only from devices where users consent to this process, using their mobile devices as key data sources.

The goal is to understand where the likelihood of encountering traffic-heavy zones or regions with increased activity levels is high. Google suggests and guides you to alternative destinations with less stress. Before we delve into the details, it’s important to understand the problem Google aims to solve with this patent.

When you start the app and set a destination, Google Maps looks for routes to the address considering traffic data and other generic settings you’ve enabled in the app (like avoiding highways and ferries). However, Google Maps currently doesn’t look beyond the set parameters, simply seeking routes to the defined destination.

The proposed updates change this behavior. If the new mode becomes available, Google Maps could review the destination, gather more information, assess the likelihood of traffic frequency, and generate alternative routes accordingly.

The best way to understand how this works is through a real-life example. If you want to go to a café and start Google Maps, the app also retrieves the café’s working hours, how busy it is, and whether it’s located in an area prone to traffic jams.

Each route to the destination gets a rating.

Google announced new upgrades to Google maps© Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Here’s where the magic begins

Google Maps could change the destination to a more convenient location where you’ll drive less.

Google says it can calculate a “discomfort score for the user” for each alternative destination. In the example above, Google Maps would look for alternative cafés where you can arrive faster and with a lower chance of encountering traffic.

The alternative destination would have to meet your criteria – you can define route options based on your preferences or allow Google Maps to learn about you and eventually suggest an alternative destination based on your profile.

There are two key elements in how this system functions: determining traffic-heavy zones and finding alternative destinations based on your preferences. Google Maps’ ambitious goal is to get you to a similar destination in the shortest possible time.

For instance, if you want coffee, the app might suggest places where you won’t spend much time in traffic. Google explains that such a system cannot rely solely on historical data. This means Google must use real-time data, as a region can experience heavy traffic due to various events, like concerts, even if it usually has light traffic.

Therefore, Google must continuously receive data from users' devices, as this would be the only way to properly find faster routes to destinations. Google’s idea makes perfect sense for people who don’t mind changing destinations, like when going to a supermarket or restaurant.

However, it wouldn’t make sense when traveling home, to work, or to any destination where changing the address is impossible. In these cases, the standard mechanism for alternative routes would still be useful, although Google Maps can use real-time occupancy and traffic data to find faster routes.

Google’s solution is still in the patent phase, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the company move forward with this idea, given the increasingly fierce competition in the navigation field, reports Autoevolution.

The potential implementation of this new Google Maps feature represents a significant advancement in navigation technology, aiming to enhance user experience by minimizing travel time and reducing stress associated with traffic.

As urban areas continue to grow and traffic congestion becomes more prevalent, such innovations could play a crucial role in improving daily commutes and optimizing travel plans. While still in the patent phase, the successful integration of real-time data and user preferences to suggest alternative destinations would mark a transformative shift in how we navigate our environments, potentially setting a new standard for smart navigation systems worldwide.