back to article Google Maps gets gov M-way congestion overlay

England's Highways Agency has announced a hookup with Google which presents live traffic information overlaid atop the online ad firm's popular cloud map app, Google Maps. Google Traffic in action The pileup mashup goes live "I'm delighted that we are the first country in Europe to work with Google and use our information …


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  1. mittfh
    Dead Vulture

    Took you long enough to notice...

    Traffic info has been there for several weeks now - just ask the members of SABRE (Society of All British Road Enthusiasts) - and in addition to live data, allows you to view averages for any given day / time of the week...

    Tombstone as you must have had your eyes closed or been 6' under not to notice...

  2. Jonathan J Warren
    Jobs Halo


    This also shows up on the Jesus phone, nice!

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Rusty Shackleford says'

    I've heard the HA webby channels. They're read by very boring midland boring voices.

    Can I suggest getting a foxy chick to read them out? I know I'd pay more attention.

  4. Paul Berry

    Functionality already present

    They've had this feature for years: just tick the "avoid highways" checkbox.

  5. David Shepherd


    wonder if the BBC will produce a Google Maps overlay for their very useful

    "England ------>"

    indicator :-)

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Available through API

    This site seems to combine the new overlays well with the BBC's travel data feeds:

  7. Tim Croydon

    Open API?

    Wouldn't it have been better to just open an API so anyone could add the info to their sevice, rather than a tie-in with a single company?

  8. Neil Hoskins
    Thumb Down

    Mobile Traffic Radio

    That Traffic Radio service is pretty useless on a mobile browser. I don't know what it works on - maybe Windows Mobile or the half-dozen iPhones in the country - but it doesn't work on my N95. They've never bothered to subscribe to Nokia's Internet Radio app either.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Londoncentric Reg?

    Strangely enough the Highway's Agency website is actually at not the hideous long URL you hid behind their link - they are Traffic ENGLAND , not just Traffic London.

    Oh, and before you assume I'm from somewhere else, London is my birthplace - but I am capable of looking outwards too.

  10. TeeCee Gold badge

    Re: Jesus!

    Shame that actually bringing it up on your Jesus phone while driving would be illegal then.

    I reckon that accidents caused by people looking up Google traffic on a mobile while driving should henceforth be called a "Jobbie" in honour of St. Steve. As in:

    There's a Jobbie on the A4.

    The emergency services are dealing with a large Jobbie on the M6 at junction 14.

    There's a big Jobbie causing a stink on the M1 near Luton.


  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm confused here...

    are we being encoraged to look at our computers and mobile phones as we drive?

    1 most congestion happens at predictable times in predicatble places. If not you're mainly stuffed.

    2 maps are for route planning & finding and should be used before you set off or when you're stopped

    WTF do I need an online updated congestion map in my car?

    One more bit of wasteful, costly eye-candy to highlight a known-problem. Better to have spent it on solving the problem of congestion - IMHO!

  12. Jim

    Road Works and other features

    I wonder why HA has not allowed Google to ppublish the Road Works, weather, road sign displays that feature on their own web site?

  13. Anonymous Coward

    @ AC 11:34

    I wish to apologise officially, not only for the Midlands existing at all, but also its unfortunate position at the middle of the country and hence the road network. How dare the Highways Agency have their offices in such a deeply unfashionable place! (however practical it may be), and also how dare the people who live in the region maintain the same accent, even after years of advice from the London-based media against it.

    Or how about you sod off and get a life.

    /Brummie in a foul mood

  14. Andy

    Something's not quite right...

    I see no traffic in Birmingham. That seems a little unlikely. And clicking on the traffic display units toggle -- the southbound signs on the M6 are saying: "congestion ahead".

    It appears that either the site is a bit selective in what jams it shows; or the traffic display units really do lie about congestion ahead on the run up to the M6 toll road....

  15. Steve Foster

    Missing Bits...

    ...are the curious part. For example, there's no data shown for the M1 roadworks between the M10 and Luton - do we just assume that the speed is so slow as to be unmeasurable?

    And there are a number of short sections of motorway that appear to be entirely unmonitored, seemingly at random (bits of most motorways in fact).

  16. Graham Marsden


    ... the Highways Agency would like to use this service so variable speed limit signs are *switched off* once the congestion they were intended to eliminate has actually *been* eliminated!

    When you're cruising down a virtually empty motorway at 1am and see a "Congestion Ahead, 40 MPH" limit sign, it does rather make them look a bit silly.

  17. Elmer Phud
    Thumb Down

    Why ?

    Why do we need this?

    The Highways Agency site has much better info and I see no reason to bung a poor version on pretty pictures as it's the roads and traffic that's important. As others have mentioned, the real-time data from the motorway signs is what's required. Why set off in to a huge traffic jam?, chill out and watch the traffic on screen instead of sitting in a ten mile queue wondering if you've enough petrol.

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. Tom
    Thumb Down

    Most traffic reports are pointless anyway.

    I know where the traffic is, it is in the same place every day - on the main roads in, out and across the city. Every morning, however, the local radio station reals off a long list of traffic congestion which is the same everyday - Fabian Way, Fordd Cwm Tawe, Carmarthen Road, Junction 41 for Briton Ferry, etc, etc.

    If you know the area then you will already know that there will be traffic in those places. If you don't know the area then you proberbly aren't going to know how to divert around the traffic anyway.

    The only expection is when there is something out of the ordinary to report like an accident, and people who know the area can at least take in the account extra travelling time, or plan to do a different way.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hope this speed info is available to everyone

    If the data is only supplied to Google then I call foul - Google is a commercial enterprise and this gives them a competitive advantage over everyone else.

    The information should be totally public or totally closed.

  21. Law
    Thumb Up

    next step

    We need native (not java) WinMobile/Symbian/Android applications like they do now for maps, but include navigation too.

    It's the next logical step, they have the gps interface, the user interface, and the 3g connectivity - so why not include the navigation part too?? When I say navigation, I mean like a step-by-step talk you through type thing, not their route finder now, which just overlays time and a bulletpoint list of directions.

    I would have suggested an Jesus Phone native version too - but as far as I am aware they don't actually have a true GPS chip in the phone, they use mast triangulation for finding location (even though their ads clearly claim GPS, I think Nokia call it assisted gps so you get a quicker initial lock, before the gps chip gets a satellite lock? Do tell me if this is wrong.). I'm not sure how suitable that kind of location method would be for a moving vehicle....

  22. Jon H

    Can't tell the colours apart

    About 10% of the male population have some degree of colour blindness (mainly red and green) and I for one am having great trouble telling what the colours are, I can just make out (by sliding the historic time bar) that some of the colours change shade but I don't know what from or to what.

    Please use more distinctive colours!

    And as for that Traffic Radio, yeah, it works on my Windows Mobile when sat in a McDonalds at a service station using their free wi-fi, but the whole country is only divided into 5 areas (plus a little one for London) so you have to sit through reports about roads 200 miles away from you before you get anything you could call local traffic news!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Oh good this is clunky too

    I've always found the Traffic England site to be very clunky to use and rather slow and unresponsive. So when I saw the traffic button crop up on google maps a while ago I thought that this would be better. Google maps is easy to use and responds pretty quickly, however as soon as I hit the traffic button google maps slowed right down and became, if anything, even slower than Traffic England. And then there's the issue of the traffic button simply disapearing for no readilly apparent reason, so it's probably even clunkier to use than Traffic England. But like all things Google it's probably still a beta and will remain so forever to fend off complaints. It will be interesting to see whether the Google facility collapses under the strain like the Traffic England one does whenever there's a major incedent.

    You get better info from the AA and BBC websites although you don't get the pretty pictures and so have to learn to read. Take a look at loads more detail than either Traffic England or Google give you and it's been there for years. Also the access to the cameras on the BBC site seems more reliable too.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    More up to date than Traffic England

    Just took a look at the map on Traffic England and there were no delays marked for the chunk of the M1 I'll be using in an hour or so, which is very unlikely at this time of day. So I took a look at the Google page and once the traffic button actually popped up (that took a couple of minutes) that showed a section at 25-45mph. So it looked like the Google page was more up to date. Furthermore the map had information for sections of road that were showing up as having no information on the Traffic England website.

    However back on the Traffic England website I selected the page that allows you to display a single motorway at a time and I got the same section of road at 20mph!

    So we have three web pages all pulling their data from the same source, all three of them give different results, they even disagree about what information is available. But the icing on the cake is that all three claim to have "up to date" or "live data".

    I suppose it's like the met office supplying differing forecats, they can always claim they were right because one of their forecasts was right. Likewise should anybody complain the traffic on one of the three pages was wrong TE can always claim that one of the others was right.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Native application for phone/PDA/satnav?

    Try TrafficTV. I did (and then I paid for it).

    Doesn't cover matrix signs or roadworks (which HA does, though the HA info is largely as useless as the signs and their operators), but has actual speeds (provided by Trafficmaster in realish time), and covers more than just the motorways which are on the Googlething so far. TrafficTV also has CCTV images from selected motorways and main roads (hence the name).

    This is an app designed for and tested on mobile phones/pdas, intended for use on small screen low bandwidth devices, unlike this Googlething.

    No I don't work for the traffictv people, I am just a long standing (but rarely in traffic jams) paying customer.

    Allegedly TomTom and others have the capability to integrate traffic data into their satnavs too. Don't know nuffink about them though.

  26. Gareth Jones Silver badge


    So you're telling me that were you to choose to drive from, say Huddersfield to Inverness tomorrow you would know where you would find the traffic hot spots? Whether to take the M1/A1route or perhaps the M6/M74 route? Of course you wouldn't. That's where a service like this comes into it's own. It's not for your 10 mile daily commute, it's for longer, perhaps, less frequent journeys.

    Whenever any new service or gadget comes along there's always one fool who steps up and says "It's no use to me, therefore it's no use at all." Congratulations, Tom.

  27. dervheid

    @mittfh & Tom

    SABRE (Society of All British Road Enthusiasts)

    Perhaps you can explain/justify why this *service* does not include the Land of Jock then, or are we not still part of Britain (at the moment anyway)


    See above comment, No fecking use to me either.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Law - the iPhone 3G has assisted GPS

    ...and already supported this feature several months ago, even if the data wasn't available (it has been in the US for yonks and worked on the Maps app on the iPhone there since it came out).

    They must have been testing this for some time before announcing it as it provided its quite useless information on my iPhone in London at the end of September.

  29. Tim

    Whingeing bastards

    God you lot are negative.

    It's perfect before you set off to see if you need to pick an alternative route. Far easier to use than the HA website.

    It is a shame that it doesn't cover major roads in London too - after all, knowing that the M4 is clear is no good if the A4 is closed and you can't get to it (as it was two weeks ago, with no warning.)

  30. Onionman
    Thumb Up


    I'll be using it on Saturday. Relatives driving down from Ooop North; I'll take a look or two and call them if there's something major they should avoid. Last time they came, they apend three hours in near-stationary traffic, which this would have resolved.

    Great idea.


  31. Tom
    Thumb Up

    @Gareth Jones

    I didn't say "It's no use to me, therefore it's no use at all." Using your example - if I knew there was traffic on one of those routes before I started by journey then I could take the alternative, but if I got on the M1 and then heard about the congestion I wouldn't know how to avoid it.

    As I said things like this are useful for out of the ordinary congestion.

  32. Gareth Jones Silver badge


    It doesn't include Scotland because that's an entirely seperate agency. Traffic England covers England. Duhhhh!

    Traffic Scotland ( covers Scotland, and is not run by the Highways Agency. If Traffic Scotland aren't working with Google there's not a lot the Highways Agency or Google can do about it.

    You want to be independent, you get a certain degree of autonomy and then try to blame the English when your lords and masters don't do the same as the English?

  33. Law

    RE: @ Law - the iPhone 3G has assisted GPS

    Yeah, I heard there was a native google maps application (although didn't realise they had traffic in it already) - I was suggesting they did a "Google Nav" application, which extends maps and ad's in navigation to it (not just route finding)... and whether it would be any use doing a native version of that for the iPhone if they didn't have proper gps.

    Thanks for confirming assisted GPS, I've had people swear blind I'm talking out of my rear when I suggested such a thing! :)

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Law 2

    The problem with converting mobile phones into 'TomTom' like devices is the data. TomTom's only have one function and are able to offer full maps data within the device. This luxury is not possible on a multifunctional device like a mobile phone where there are competing claims on the storage the device offers from different apps. In theory, EDGE or 3G should be able to supply the data as you travel, but speed and coverage are not reliable enough in practice. Therefore, you can end up with your location marked by the GPS signal but no actual map data to see where that location actually is! Any native navigation app for the phone is therefore going to have to include reliable map data as part of the package whichight not be feasible for devices with limited disk space. It'll be a thing for the future for sure, but SSD storage sizes are the limiting factor at the moment. The only alternative is to offer a subset of the data to download and store on the device for specific, known locations that the driver is going to visit on any one trip, and the usabilty of this would probably be considered toouch of a PITA for most people.

  35. Law
    Black Helicopters

    RE: @ Law 2

    Yup - completely right. At the minute, I use s60 google maps for fun and to get around unfamiliar cities for things like nearest tube and metro locations, or where I am in relation to my hotel, but if it was to be a navigator I would need the map data quicker, and on the motorway you get 3g blackspots etc.

    I tried Nokia Maps when I first got my phone, was a major headache - but then they did the pre-download for a region, the UK map data was about 250mb if memory serves which falls into a comfortable range for most microsd cards that come with phones now (at least the ones with gps units), I think it was a similar amount for my symbian Route66 maps too - but I'm guessing with Google this pre-loading of map data to a storage device they can't really control will be more of a pain as they will have to figure out issues copyright etc.

    Shame, I was optimistic about a free google navigator for a minute - one subsidised by location-relevant advertising (Moto / M&S services, only 10 miles away type ads).. I guess once open source mapping gets to a suitable reliability, we will be in business - or gov opens OS maps to public royalty free, until then, I assume people will have to keep paying to get navigation. :(

  36. dervheid

    @ Gareth Jones

    Funnily enough, I'm well aware of the Traffic Scotland site (it's not that good, IMHO). And the differences between the two agencies.

    Neither am I anti-English, as you seem to imply.

    Strange that that comes from someone with such a Welsh name. Are you Welsh perchance? Not that it matters...

    Sorry if I upset your delicate nationalistic sensibilities.

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