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L.A., SoCal street traffic now visible on Google Maps

August 26, 2009 |  6:00 am

For years, Google Maps has let the traffic-conscious peek at the congestion on freeways and highways in major cities, including Los Angeles. It's a great service, but it has its limitations. If you're an L.A. resident, you're well acquainted with the sinking feeling that comes from checking your commute only to see that the Hollywood Freeway is a blood-red line all the way home. Again.

LA-trafficBut now there's a tail light at the end of the tunnel: Google Maps added traffic overlays to many of the Southland's major streets -- allowing savvy, smartphone-equipped motorists to get off the freeway and find a speedier route home.

The new traffic information covers urban centers in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties. To view traffic info, click the "Traffic" button on the upper right of the Google Maps window.

Google Maps imports much of its real-time traffic information from companies that monitor the nation's roadways. But it's adding a high-tech twist: crowdsourcing. When mobile users call up Google Maps on their phones, the service harvests anonymous location data to enhance its picture of live road conditions.

Clearly, the next step is to develop software that lets the GPS technology in your phone process the Google Maps data and display the best route home. But in the meantime, knowing that Beverly Boulevard is green should be good enough.

-- David Sarno

Follow my variable-rate stream of tech, media, and culture musings on Twitter: @dsarno