5 Google Maps Tips to Deal With Heavy Traffic

Google Maps can help avoid nightmare traffic 6 photos
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
Google Maps traffic informationGoogle Maps traffic informationGoogle Maps traffic informationGoogle Maps traffic informationGoogle Maps traffic information
The turn-by-turn guidance is perhaps the Google Maps feature most people are looking for, but the app also includes a little something that makes driving more convenient.
As a navigation app whose purpose is to reach a destination faster, Google Maps also collects traffic information. As such, it knows precisely when and where you are more likely to encounter a traffic jam. The ETA could eventually be affected, so Google Maps needs such data specifically to estimate your arrival time more accurately.

Google developed Google Maps to provide drivers with traffic information in several ways, both in the route preview screen and when the navigation is active.

As a result, you can stay up-to-date with traffic conditions on the route in the planning phase or when you’re already on the road.

Congestion information

The first thing you should keep an eye out for is the congestion warning displayed when planning a route.

Launch Google Maps, define the address of the destination, and then look at the bottom of the screen for the total trip time and distance.

Google Maps then provides traffic data, including where you are expected to hit heavy traffic and how big the produced delay is estimated to be. In this case, Google Maps expects the congestion on the road to cause a 10-minute delay on the chosen route.

This way, users can make informed decisions regarding their routes. In some cases, longer routes could be faster, and this is why the information provided by Google Maps comes in so handy.

Google Maps traffic information
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
Look for traffic jam warnings

Waze users are probably familiar with the traffic jam icons that are displayed on the map when the application expects congestion along the route.

Google Maps uses a similar approach, with a traffic jam icon showing up on the map when generating a route. The icon is displayed alongside the estimated delay on the section of the road where heavy traffic is expected.

As such, users are recommended to scan the map in the preview screen before starting the navigation. They can easily determine if their route includes slowdowns produced by heavy traffic, without having to expand on a specific section.

The heavy traffic icons are red, so anyone can notice them with a glance at the screen.

Google Maps traffic information
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

Read the colors

Google Maps uses colors to display the expected traffic conditions on the map. The traffic layer can be activated both when exploring the map and during navigation.

A green road means the traffic is light, while orange suggests you are expected to encounter occasional slowdowns. A red road indicates heavy traffic that could eventually impact the ETA.

A road can be painted in multiple colors, therefore showing precisely how traffic conditions change along the route. This way, you can determine in a more straightforward way where you are more likely to sit in traffic.

Google Maps traffic information
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

Eco-friendly routes

Launched a couple of years ago, eco-friendly routes in Google Maps are supposed to help drivers save gas and reduce their vehicles’ carbon emissions.

Eco-friendly routes are displayed on the route preview screen, along with the impact they would produce for the trip.

In theory, they are longer than the fastest route to the destination, as they look not only for traffic conditions but also for roads that better fit your car. If you drive a diesel vehicle and you configure the engine in Google Maps, the application looks primarily for roads like highways where such powerplants are more efficient.

The road incline is also an important factor for generating a better route, especially in the case of EVs. As such, make sure you check the eco-friendly routes before starting the navigation. They could sometimes come with a similar or even better ETA, despite suggesting a longer trip.

Google Maps traffic information
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

Check future traffic conditions

Google Maps can also estimate how traffic conditions would change throughout the day for the configured route.

The way it shows such information is similar to its busyiness feature. Google Maps displays information on how busy a crowded place is expected to be at different times during each day of the week.

In the case of traffic, Google Maps shows traffic estimates for the next two hours, therefore helping drivers plan their trips accordingly. In this screenshot, Google shows that I’m now expected to encounter the worst traffic conditions this morning. By 10 AM, the heavy traffic would ease, so I would be able to reach the destination faster.

Additionally, Google Maps also comes with route planning settings. These options perfectly fit the estimated traffic data, as you can configure the application to send a notification when it’s time to leave. If you want to avoid heavy traffic and get behind the wheel at a later time based on the estimated conditions, you can request Google Maps to determine the ETA using historic data. This way, you’ll arrive at the desired time without facing bumper-to-bumper traffic.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
Bogdan Popa profile photo

Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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