back to article Google declares Maps COVID-19-ready after retraining it on pandemic traffic – or the lack of it in some areas

Machine-learning models used to direct the journeys of Google Maps users have been retrained to adapt to changing traffic conditions during the coronavirus outbreak. “Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic patterns around the globe have shifted dramatically,” said Johann Lau, the product manager at Google Maps. “We …

  1. IceC0ld Silver badge

    and there's me thinking that the maps just gave you directions from A to B in the most direct route

    so surely, if the traffic is less now, the easiest route between two points IS a straight line ?

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Country lanes and side streets are shorter, but motorways and bypasses are faster.

      Even ignoring traffic, roads have different safe speeds, and junctions different time costs.

      The trick is to somehow get a sufficiently accurate estimate of those costs into the graph. Quite why that's AI or even "machine learning" is beyond me though. Measuring real data from real events and inserting that into a rolling average wasn't called that when I was learning about such things.

      1. lesession

        Title inflation

        Ah, but if you called your project (a) 'calculating a rolling average' or (b) 'AI-driven machine learning', which one do you think you'd get paid more for?

        See also (a) 'keeping the lights on and not screwing up upgrades' and (b) DevOps

      2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

        The other point is that those costs vary, with some predictability and some unpredictability.

        It's worth avoiding a school at pickup time even if it adds minutes to the average journey time, but it's fine to pass it at other times.

        If there's an accident on the quickest road, it's better to take a different route early to avoid the whole area.

        With local knowledge, these decisions are trivial. When working it out for the whole globe, I can see why they'd outsource the learning to machines.

        1. ThatOne Silver badge

          > I can see why they'd outsource the learning to machines

          How can machines guess the school starting and closing times at [Far, Far Away]? It's still knowledge you either have or not.

          Anyway, reading the statements of the Googlers I understand they just look at the traffic flow in the past weeks, average it, and forecast the future situation from that data (that's the "AI" part). Of course reducing the sampling window that much will yield some interesting artifacts around big, several days-long events (big holidays and such)...

          1. Clunking Fist Bronze badge

            "How can machines guess the school starting and closing times at [Far, Far Away]? It's still knowledge you either have or not."

            I'm far, far away. In New Zealand. And Google seems to know all the opening & closing times of schools and businesses around here.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            # He sees you when you're sleepin' / He knows when you're a wake / He knows if you've been bad or good #

            Google know EVERYTHING

            Coming soon, the rival to Tindr... Google for Dogging... Google will pinpoint the nearest lay-bys and car parks where you can, erm, erm... from a social distance

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Add 14 days for journeys from various countries to England and the various devolved countries of the UK.

    1. hoola Bronze badge

      And a wheelbarrow full of phones........

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