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Google Maps Hacks (simonweckert.com)
1410 points by rsj_hn 20 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 382 comments



An interesting "red but no traffic" phenomenon is in Iceland, with roads which are next to scenery viewing points. The roads are mostly empty in this country, but everyone must've slowed down when they saw the breathtaking scenery, and would pull into the viewing point's parking spot to stop and take pictures. On Google Maps these areas were marked red.

On another navigation related topic; I was using Waze in a high-traffic city, where even the alternate routes have a lot of traffic. I was thinking, it surely would be possible for Waze to look back along my route and calculate which route would have been better for me.

E.g. if I drove from A via B, C, D, E towards Z, and there was an alternate route A-B-F-G-E-Z, and the route branches out at B (you can either take path B-C-D-E or path B-F-G-E), the app could find a car that was near me at point B, and went to F later on. It would then know the time I would have needed to drive from B to F. This ghost car doesn't need to go all the way to E, if it turned off at F, the app could find another car, one which at that point was at point F and later on drove to G (or better, E), and then see how much time they took. And so on for each segment of my alternate route...


So I'm stuck in a traffic jam, and google maps is telling me I can take an alternate route to avoid it and save 25 minutes vs waiting in the traffic jam. Something that occurs to me as I sit in this traffic...

what portion of all the other driver's around me also looking at google maps? Is Google Maps telling them to take the same alternate route as me? Are they all going to do it? If they all do it, does the alternate route (which likely can't handle as much traffic as the original route) just became as jammed as waiting in traffic? Or even worse, if they're all going to do what google maps says, would I in fact be much better off ignoring it and sticking to the original route?

It's hard to tell what's imagination/selection bias, but following google maps traffic-jam-avoidance suggestions has seemed disastrous enough to me enough times that I mostly just stick to the original route now. (Of course, one could also imagine using one's own route knowledge to pick an alternate route of one's own without google maps...)

I suppose google maps could be smart enough to tell half the people to go one way and half the other... I kind of doubt it is, but one could imagine a computerized route direction system which, if enough driver's had it, could actually maximize efficiency by sending different drivers different routes intentionally... I'm not holding my breath for it.


Two weeks ago in Atlanta, I was dropping my wife to the Airport. Atlanta traffic was doing it's thing (not moving). Google said it found alternate route that will save 7 minutes. I was like meh. Then it said 10 minutes so I took the turn. I don't know how many people did the same but I ended up spending half an hour extra in some internal road and half of it was being stuck in a right turn lane that rejoined the original highway I was on. So if I had kept on the slow moving highway I would have definitely reached much earlier than the alternate route. Bottom line is that the 'Save time' works only when the alternate route is truly alternate and not just a detour and rejoin the same highway as you will get stuck on the ramp while joining back.


Well the other route presumably has a significant throughput. If 1000 car/min are in traffic, and the side-road has a 200 car/min capacity, the first 20% of people to leave the main road will experience no additional traffic.

Now, let's say that the 200 car/min turns to a bottleneck of 100 car/min if it's overwhelmed 10 mins downstream of the turnoff. If google routes >200 car/min to the turnoff, there will eventually be a significant traffic jam: cars will pile up at the bottleneck, and even if waze stops routing to the turnoff at that point, the jam would still travel upwards like a pressure wave until it hits the turnoff.

I'd have a hard time believing it's possible for waze to know beforehand what those throughputs are, so some situations like this must occur.


These situations absolutely occur. Something like this happened to me in Alexandria, VA, trying to cross the Woodrow Wilson bridge into MD. I-495 was slow across the bridge. Waze re-directed me off the interstate into residential side streets, along with thousands of other travelers. The side-streets were every bit as jammed as the highway. It took me 3 hours to disentangle myself from that mess. Was it faster than staying on the highway? No idea, but 3 hours to cover 5 miles is terrible - the app should have just said "You're fucked, go home and try again tomorrow." instead of constantly telling me "oh hey, try this other side street, it'll save you 45 minutes!"


I would pay good money for the "go home and try again tomorrow" feature. Especially if it was narrated by my favorite celebrity. Like Cookie Monster.


You can get cookie monster's voice on Waze...


Oh, I'm aware. Thanks though. ;-)


Man, now imagine how the people who live on those residential side streets feel...


It depends on the city. In some cities, Googles routing takes into account the number of other users Google has directed down the road.


Somewhat related... Braess's Paradox.

Take the toy example illustrating that paradox ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braess%27s_paradox#Mathematica... ) and an enlightened Google maps may do the altruistic thing of telling half of the drivers to stick on the upper route and half of the drivers to stick to the bottom route, but then some 3rd-party app will come along with the "shortcut" down the middle.


Maybe when all/most traffic is self-driving cars they could somehow be regulated to all use the same coordinated routing system without "cheating"... probably not.


My third hand information frmo a coworker who is friends with people on the maps team is that some percentage of people will get routed into the traffic, and some percentage will get routed to alternate routes, of which there may be a few. Google appears to take a rather active stance on increasing total traffic flow, even at the expense of giving some number of drivers suboptimal routes.


I've noticed this too, and as a result I cannot trust Google maps.

Is there any competitor I can check to confirm best routes?


On average, these are the best routes. There's some chance you'll be that guy routed into traffic today, only to enjoy the faster detour the next ten times. Decreasing total time in traffic for all participants is optimal on the long run for every single participant.


Presumably, this alternate route won't save you 25 minutes by the time you and others reroute. However if it saves you 10 minutes and reduces the delay on the original route by 10 minutes since there are now fewer cars idling, then everyone is better off.


Consider another example. Google suggests an alternate route that will presumably save 15 minutes.

Let's say enough cars take the suggestion to slow down that route by 10 minutes and speed up this one by 10 minutes. Even if you end up saving five minutes relative to the original estimate, you'd have saved ten minutes staying put.


It is a point of contention if Google should optimize for saving time for the individual user, (using data only available to that user), or for that user (but using routing information of other google users), or for all users on average (but potentially to the detriment of some users to give other users a bigger advantage), or for the public on average (ie. routing cars to reduce traffic, but possibly putting google users at a disadvantage compared to non-google users).

Various cities round the world have different optimization goals as they try out different approaches.


I would say obviously the answer is that users paying for premium levels of service should get faster routes, isn't that how this sort of thing is done?


This happens on NY 73, which is a road in the Adirondack High Peaks region between the highway and Lake Placid. It’s legit — even though cars are parked, you still need to slow down!

I usually avoid Google maps for traveling in areas that I don’t know. It takes you off on stupid routes that save marginal time (if any) too much. Waze is good for interstate travel, but IMO Apple is better for giving you the “right”, low drama route.


This is my common complaint with Waze and most driving apps - they optimize for "least time," not "least anguish". I would almost always prefer to spend an extra 5 minutes on my "normal" route (that I have on auto-pilot) instead of saving that 5 minutes by taking confusingly-named side-streets with lots of left turns onto other busy side-streets. I don't know if Apple Maps really gets this any better to be honest.


This is an understated problem. Google used to regularly take me through a route that involves a left turn in a major road and multiple crossings where cross traffic won’t stop. Literally two blocks from the suggested left turn is a left turn arrow signal which also avoids the dangerous crossings.

It’s both dangerous and anxiety inducing and doesn’t save time either.


This problem baffles me because all that has to be done to correct it is increase the estimated time of arrival penalty for making an unprotected left turn so that the routing algorithm doesn't mistakenly think it's faster. Ditto for U-turns, which Google constantly suggests (rather than turning onto a side street and U-turning there or going around the block) even when they are impossible (median in the way), dangerous (high speed road) or illegal.


Just another area where rules based heuristic systems can outperform machine learning systems by not removing edge cases through over generalization.


That's weird. Google maps seems to prefer to direct me on a kilometres long detour than to take a simple u-turn into an empty driveway. They do seem to have rules about u-turns, they just don't make sense.


One time I had TomTom accidentally switch itself on in my bag on the floor, set to Homer Simpson's voice and trying to redirect me to home.

As I got further and further away the "turn left here" and "turn right here" directions got more and more frequent, until eventually he just started repeating "turn around where possible" until I was able to find somewhere reasonable to stop and turn it off.


I wish it had a “no left turns” feature like they have for avoiding tolls.


I wish cities had roundabouts instead of intersections, so that would not be a problem :)


Roundabouts have the unfortunate property of smoothing throughput from a sequence of chunks and gaps to a constant dribble. That's fine on limited access roads with overpasses and parallel feeder roads for local traffic or where overall throughput is always low enough to still comfortably cut in from a lower rank junction. On everything in between (enough traffic to make turning difficult, but still having direct junctions with access roads) you are better off with the occasional traffic light that will as a side effect serve gaps to meet rank junctions downstream.


I hate roundabouts. I live in France, and we have them everywhere. They're a huge clusterfuck that does not win any time, and when misused can be a lot more dangerous than a properly planned intersection. Of all the accidents I've driven past on my daily drives, all of them happened on roundabouts. I hate them.


> Of all the accidents I've driven past on my daily drives, all of them happened on roundabouts.

In localities with few/no roundabouts, the vast majority of accidents still happen at intersections. Intersections of roads are the most prone to accidents (for fairly obvious reasons), with or without roundabouts.

I believe there is research showing roundabouts are actually quite a bit safer in general, but it's possible it depends on various things. But anyway, accidents happen mostly where two roads intersect, either way.


Roundabouts are great for cars, and awful for just about everyone else. People, bikes, buses, trucks: all face difficulty or death in their presence.


> People, bikes, buses, trucks: all face difficulty or death in their presence.

Roundabouts make my bicycle commute way faster. This in The Netherlands where we cycle a lot. Difficulty or death is entirely incorrect. Suggest to compare the designs across countries, maybe there's a huge difference in the design?


I think the issue comes when people try to circumvent the give-way priority - which gets worse when there are multiple lanes and multiple exits.

It certainly seems to be a people problem rather than a roundabout deign issue from my experience?

People trying to "beat" people out onto the roundabout rather than giving way, people not using proper lane discipline and squeezing/cutting into other lanes etc..


You should copy the Dutch then. Their car+bike road designs are something else. Roundabouts included.


> They're a huge clusterfuck that does not win any time

Research shows the opposite. They can handle more traffic within a given timeframe. The bit about accidents seems strange. Not sure why you'd think that. I'm wondering if your roundabouts have some kind of design flaw.


Well, having driven on France on holidays, the problem seems to be with the driving culture. The roundabouts are very busy, and likely as a result drivers dart out in the shortest possible gaps in traffic. If you decide to play it safe, then the backed up traffic behind you starts honking at you, increasing the pressure and pushing you to make a bad decision. I found it very stressful indeed! (Perhaps all of France is not like this).


The research I've seen suggest roundabouts do indeed cause accidents, but they're always low-speed accidents where people don't die. Intersections on the other hand are more likely to cause deaths because speeds can be much greater.


The Place Charles de Gaulle Étoile (Arc de Triomphe) in Paris is a gigantic roundabout, with the peculiar feature that traffic entering the system has priority ; traffic already on the roundabout must yield. This would lead to perpetual gridlock were there no traffic lights controlling access to the roundabout. This kind of junction used to be common in cities.

Out in the countryside roundabouts in France operate in the "normal" way : approaching traffic yields to traffic already in the system, with the usual triangular "yield" sign making priority clear.

It's possible that your experience of French roundabouts is related to driver confusion between these two systems.


They take space for anything at reasonable size I'd guess.

Strangely enough though it's one of the few things I miss about the city I grew up in (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia) - lots of outdoor art and sculptures because they had lots of very large roundabouts (check Google images to see what I mean about the outdoor art).


It absolubately can work, for a famous and oft-studied example see the city of Milton Keynes in the UK. Hundreds of roundabouts


America cities have too many oversized streets and major intersections. Keep the streets small and you don't need as many intersections and you can invest more in the ones you have. This is what they do in the Netherlands.


Wisconsin has become one giant series of roundabouts across the state over the past decade; they’re everywhere after new construction and being retrofitted whenever the opportunity arises. Sometimes 2 and 3 roundabouts connected at times.


Roundabouts only work in the burbs. In cities, they are death traps for pedestrians and cyclists.


Nonsense. See video linked in https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8819614 starting at minute 3.


> In cities, they are death traps for pedestrians and cyclists.

I haven't experienced that for the many roundabouts we have in The Netherlands. Throughput is higher (can easily be measured), plus waiting time is lower thanks to roundabouts.

Not exactly sure what you mean with "burbs" though it doesn't matter as they're heavily used in cities here.


I ride my bike through rotaries (as we call them here in Mass.) all the time. It's not that hard. It is advisable to try to ride as fast as possible, but the key is to signal clearly all movements in and out of the lane and the circle.


The problem is that it would be mostly useless, because it'd be buried in a menu somewhere where you can't easily change it while driving.

The avoiding tolls thing is absolutely terrible that way. Thankfully, they finally put in a new feature where it shows you alternate routes, with and without tolls, and tells you if they do or don't have tolls. It took years for this to come about even though I had requested it many times, and it's plainly obviously needed. But before this, it was all-or-nothing, and it wasn't easy to change on the fly, and having it on was bad because it would frequently try to route me onto an expensive toll lane even though there was zero time savings, but for other routes a toll road was absolutely necessary.

They should have it weight left turns higher (as in worse) so that routes tend to avoid them. When I drive to work, I can take my normal exit, and only take right turns, or if I miss it, I can take the next exit, but there's a terrible left turn there with a very long light. Google Maps consistently says "1 minute longer" for this route: BS. It might be about the same if you happen to catch the light, otherwise it's 5 minutes longer. I feel like their algorithm really doesn't take this into account well.


I would love it if these apps gave an option for easiest drive. Both Apple and Google tell me to take a left turn by my house onto a busy road when its actually quicker to go the other way and just loop around. In fact, if they just had an “avoid unprotected left turns” option that’d be fantastic.


Waze has a feature called "Avoid difficult intersections" designed exactly for these situations. https://www.pcmag.com/news/waze-wants-to-help-you-avoid-diff...


I had a dedicated GPS a decade ago (I don't remember what brand) that had route options for Fastest, Shortest or Simplest that were easy to pick when you were first putting in the address. With few exceptions, simplest was usually the best option, especially if driving in an unfamiliar area. I think it basically tried to minimize turns or number of different roads. That would be a nice thing to see on Google Maps.


Yes this is one thing that frustrates me about Google's navigation. Often it will take you off the main road through difficult and narrow side roads in order to save 2 mins. When I'm in an unfamiliar area I would rather save the stress and sit in traffic for those two minutes.


I will risk writing that you had Navigon or TomTom. At least in Europe those were the two main choices.

I often use Navigon I keep in a (very old) iPhone, it has a fantastic feature that you can download the maps for countries. I like it better for long distance driving than Google Maps.


Garmin was also a major option in the US.


> with Waze and most driving apps - they optimize for "least time," not "least anguish"

It's my impression that Google Maps does the latter; Waze is known for taking wild routes that are nominally faster. I'm not sure that I see a basis for complaint, as they're just offering a choice of different route objectives to optimize for (I know people who explicitly use Waze because they prefer its aggressive optimization to Maps). I suppose a toggle would be nice though.


I travel to new cities often and usually rent a car from the airport. In most cities around the world, there is dedicated signage pointing out the access to the airport on every major approach it. I would say half the time Google wants to take me on a different route on some back road that is not meant to be the public access to the airport, which creates the extra mental overhead of having to ignore the gigantic "AIRPORT - EXIT HERE" signs all along the way. It even does this at SFO, presumably an airport that the very people who work on Google Maps use, where it always wants to exit the interstate one exit before the sign for the airport and take city streets instead. The worst experience I've had of this was in Denver, where it directed me onto a country road that circled the airport property and then ended at a temporary road closure. That is, Google's "5 seconds faster than the main, signed route" optimization wasn't even an actual route to the airport!


My favorite example of this was in NYC heading to Citi Field for a Mets game. Google Maps guides you past the exit, has you make a u-turn by getting off at the next exit (which is really unusual) and get you trapped on some ramp for an extra 20m.


There's a regular drive I make. I can either hop on the freeway and it takes 1hr 4min, or I can take backroads and it takes 1hr 2min.

The backroads also has a 25% or so chance of getting stopped by a train. Big massive transcontinental train connecting the biggest port complex in the US to the rest of the country. Takes about ten minutes. Last time I hit the train, as it was almost done, a train came the other way.

Haven't taken that route since, despite the fact that it saves two minutes, sometimes more if there's traffic on the freeway. It's not a good value proposition.


It's not a new problem by any means - UPS trucks avoid left turns thanks to their navigation algorithm for more than a decade and they were trying to do it since the 1970s.


The weird thing is that old school software like Microsoft Streets and Trips could do this pretty easily.

These map apps make a conscious decision to deliver this user experience.


The OG mapquest had three options for route optimization: quickest (time), shortest (distance), and scenic. Would be nice to have that again.


Sorry for the minor comment but I noticed this part: "side-streets with lots of left turns onto other busy side-streets"

Now I live in Europe, presumably you live in the US (sorry if that's wrong). Is there any particular difficulties with doing left turns compared to right turns where you live?


Biggest difference I found moving from Europe was that you can make a right turn on a red traffic in many states in the US (but not in New york city apparently!). You have to treat it like a stop sign and yield to any traffic on the road you're joining. Ends making a journey of rights turns much fast than one with left turns, particularly in rush hour


Left turns cross all four lanes of traffic involved in an intersection while right turns involve two, so if either street is busy you have to wait longer for a gap.


Roads can be very wide in the US, it is not uncommon for cities to have 6 or 8 lane roads at-grade (i.e. not expressways). So when turning left, one must turn across 3 or 4 lanes of oncoming traffic, instead of just one as when turning right.


Yes, I'm in the US. Left turns have to cross oncoming traffic so you have to monitor both directions. This is especially stressful if {both roads are busy, there's weather/dark, you don't know the roads}.


I recently tried walking directions to JapanTown in SF on both Google Maps and Apple Maps.

gMaps took us to the restaurant on the shortest path - straight through the heart of Tenderloin. My girlfriend was sketched out as heck and almost made us take an Uber.

On our way back from the restaurant, we used Apple Maps. It took us on what looked like a longer route but lo and behold, it took a wiiiide berth around the Tenderloin. We saw not a single sketchy thing on our entire night time walk.

Don’t know if it was a coincidence or Apple Maps really has an “avoid seedy areas” model. The route was way simpler at least. 2 or 3 turns compared to gMaps’s 15

And grid geometry means Apple Maps was only 2min slower. But way nicer and easier to navigate.


> On our way back from the restaurant, we used Apple Maps. It took us on what looked like a longer route but lo and behold, it took a wiiiide berth around the Tenderloin. We saw not a single sketchy thing on our entire night time walk.

Microsoft patented such an "avoid ghetto" idea year ago, but people got mad and called it racist:

https://www.npr.org/2012/01/25/145337346/this-app-was-made-f...

https://www.cnet.com/news/the-joy-of-microsofts-avoid-ghetto...

Because, as we all know, trying to avoid getting mugged or carjacked is racist.


My opinion: If the model is based on crime stats, it’s ok. If it’s based on demographics, it’s a problem.


I'm right there with you. A model based on race would be racist. The issue is that in urban areas, crime rate is often a good proxy for race (particularly when looking at, say, muggings or carjackings rather than white-collar crime). I consider that irrelevant, but as the two articles I linked show, the "disparate impact" type folks don't care about which stat is being used.


To be fair, most of SF’s seedy people are white drug addicts.


I've visited and I wouldn't say that is true. There is all kinds of seedy. There are white/skinny seedy people walking rats, kinda freaky. But taking the downtown bus gave equal race representation when someone started a fight with me over there bag's right to occupy my seat. The Asian gangs robbing/hitting people on the bart I was on showed a different side of seedy. The uniquely San Fran treat was someone asking my opinion on my beat poetry they wrote around race struggles. After commenting positively (just to be nice) said Poet offered to sell and when refused when on racial rant and become very aggressive.

It's a diverse place of seed and rich. It's a very future feeling place. The experience made me think this is a slice of what the future will look like. It's kinda has this dystopian gothic novel feel. The mini subways (barts) are automated and cool and look like they are in the future but look like they are falling apart too. You get this weird post apocalyptic feeling of a future that has come and gone but hasn't reached you yet


The Bart is designed to look automated, but it's one of the least automated transit systems around - There's a human driver on each train, station agents to watch the doors, and it's only the fact that they have nice recordings that makes it feel impersonal and automated.


They should get some nice recordings here in DC for the Metro system. They usually just have the drivers making announcements, and half the time I can't understand a word they said.


The Bart is designed to look automated, but it's one of the least automated transit systems around - There's a human driver on each train, station agents to watch the doors, and it's only the fact that they have nice recordings that makes it feel impersonal and automated.

Yeah, no. BART doesn't have station agents watching the doors, and human drivers are a common occurrence on pretty much every subway system in the world.


I personally don't hold that opinion, but this could still be construed as racist.


No need for explicit "avoid seedy areas" model. Just look where people prefer to walk (esp. people with iphones), and favor those streets in your algorithm.


> it took a wiiiide berth around the Tenderloin.

Next thing you know, (SF) City politicians are up in arms about why Apple is "blackballing" Tenderloin, and rake up past issues such as red-lining, ghettos, etc.


>I usually avoid Google maps for traveling in areas that I don’t know. It takes you off on stupid routes that save marginal time (if any) too much.

We relied on GMaps on a recent (my first ever) visit to Malta, and it took us through some pretty dodgy, steep and narrow, local roads on our way in.

We didn't know of this GMaps' preference of, erm, interesting routes, so we figured that's just how Malta is. A few days later and, of course, we learn there's a perfectly normal, pleasant route that took us there in as little time as the dodgy one...


I would definitely love to see a setting for "if this one-lane back road route saves me less than ten minutes, just take me on the big main street."


So a theory I've had for a bit now... Google maps doesn't optimize for ease of travel, or time, or anything like that - it optimizes for engagement, like every other Google product. And how would you do that with a maps product? By making routes too complicated to memorize, too specialized (back streets, etc) to generalize, and then changing things up often to prevent a route from becoming second nature anyways.

Which feels like a lot of what people complain Google Maps does...


... especially if they can bring you by some companies who have paid for ads on Maps. Where I used to live, in a grid city, Maps would take drivers down one single street whose only discerning feature from those 2 streets north or south (alternating one-ways) was that it could say "Turn left at the Pizza Hut".


Sounds funny, but your theory is false. I use GMaps every day to drive to and from work, with a very simple route that's almost all on an interstate highway. Almost every day, it gives me the exact same route (which is so simple I really don't need GPS navigation at all for it). Sometimes, it gives me a different route because of an accident, traffic jam, construction delay, etc., which is why I use GPS all the time, but I see absolutely nothing to indicate that Google intentionally makes my route more complicated than it needs to be. (And yes, these delays are real: this road is under a lot of construction at the moment, and it frequently has crashes and traffic jams in places.)


Gm definitely does not taken elivation into account. If you live in a hilly country you will want to avoid alternative routes that seem shorter but are really elevation changes.


There is a popular road in a relatively rural part of the SF Bay area for bicycling and on the weekends it appears to have traffic due to the slower speed of the numerous cyclists. There isn't actually more traffic. Google then sends cars on a winding narrow hilly alternate route.


Maps starts reading pedestrians in downtown SF as traffic during road closures for e.g. stadium events, and tries to direct cars along jammed and even closed roads. Too many times have I been stuck less than a mile from a destination for more than an hour, sometimes even two.


As a cyclist, this sounds like a feature, not a bug. Fewer cars on the road is always a good thing for cyclists if they have to share the road.


Yes, its good for cyclists and not really detrimental to cars. Although, I'm sure the local drivers know the other route in annoying and not faster.


This also happens with gas stations/parkings that are so near the main road they are confused with it.


I have the same frustration with Google Maps.

I have a route I take, and let's say I split it up with A-B-C. now Google Maps tells me that AB-BC takes an hour, but AB'-BC' is 15 minutes faster.

It usually turns out that the time delay is on the later leg. So I could take AB or AB', it doesn't matter, and then BC' is the faster choice later on.

I wish Google Maps wouldn't show me AB', because it's misleading. At best it should say AB' is the same ETA. But clicking on it means that some route near the end of my drive is now different, it doesn't actually save me time for my current divergence. It's misleading.


The key assumption there is that your alternate-self ghost-car is following the flow of traffic. Which might be true if the route was a highway; but what if it was, say, a shopping district? (“The other you would have gotten here slower, because they’d have been lured into a Starbucks drive-through on the way.”) Or what if they’re a new driver/have a flat tire, and so are driving slower than the speed limit with cars honking behind them? (“Your other self would have been a teenager who hesitated too long on a left turn at an intersection, and so had to wait an extra light cycle.”)


I used to work for a mapping & navigation company that offered a traffic API service. It worked by using anonymized cell phone data to predict traffic patterns. I once heard a story that during peak hour, every five minutes or so the jams on a highway would magically disappear then reappear. After some head scratching, turns out there is a train track inbetween the lanes of the highway full of high speed commuters that would cancel out the stationary car commuters.


Edge cases like this make work (if that is what one calls it) fun, you know it? Not cynical, but rather true joy in a unique and unexpected challenge.


How did you fix that? I’ve been wondering how google and the others differentiate between cars on the free vs express lanes.


You can measure peak acceleration--cars accelerate much faster than buses or trains--or whether you're connected to headphones (not a head-unit). Use of headphones by drivers is illegal in most places.

As for express vs. regular lanes, express-lane cars will have much different distributions than regular-lane cars. Use something like KNN where the distance metric is a weighted sum of Kolmogorov-Smirnov distance between speed distributions and K-S between acceleration distributions (each vehicle is one unit with a distribution of speeds and accelerations).


> or whether you're connected to headphones

I’m pretty sure this is rarely enforced in most states in the US. My father frequently drives across the US and always takes his calls with earbuds because the speakers aren’t very good.

I do it with one earbud in because I find the quality of speaker audio terrible, forcing me to concentrate harder on it to discern what’s being said.


Single ear devices are usually legal where earbuds in both ears is not. Maintaining situational awareness seems to be the rule. If course, I'm essentially deaf in on ear, so being legal isn't any safer.

I tend to use the car speakers or simply refuse all incoming calls while driving.


> simply refuse all incoming calls while driving

Definitely the best course of action. Even just talking on the phone is very distracting. No way someone can have a full conversation going and still be giving the same attention to driving.


Or just split speeds into a histogram and take the 20th percentile or something.


I don't know what a free lane vs an express lane is, but for the "that", I can imagine that a cluster of hundreds of phones moving at exactly the same speed in the vicinity of a train track until they reach the next station would be a reasonable indicator that the were in a train. The preexisting phones in that area would not show the property of moving at the same speed at the same time, and it also kind of stands out that they're still doing 15-30km/h (or however bad traffic may be) while the newcomer phones all rush through at 140km/h (85miles/h).

Bonus points if those clients all connect from the same IP address (range). That would be the train WiFi.


Express lanes can be separated lanes with fewer exits that allow you to go faster because of fewer lane changes. Chicago (and I'm sure many other cities) have these. They're separated by concrete barriers and only have exits every couple miles, so you'll be right next to super slow traffic while you're doing 20+ MPH more than the "free" lanes. In Chicago, you don't have to pay to go in them, but here in LA, they have High Occupancy Vehicle lanes that you can use if you have more than one person in the, OR if you pay for using the lane with the FastPass you use for paying for other tolls.


That's quite easy and there are different ways to do it, the first that comes to mind is using location history.


I used to work for a map company, and phone traces were immediately broken into smaller chunks to anonymize them. Using location history isn’t viable when all you have a collection of short traces.


In audio processing you deal with spikes using one or two averaging filters with different time constants for rise/fall.

You can also do it with a PID approach


You could collect all data from that route and then if you find that the average velocities of the phones fall neatly into two sets of values, then the algorithm should interpret this as one set of phones having an alternate method of travel, something other than the road.


Pick the 10%ile speed, assume that people sent doing that voluntarily.


The device itself should be able to discern the mode of transportation, no?


Indeed, but carriers don't get data from the device's sensors, so they need to be a little smart to properly recognize the mode of transportation.

It's easier with historical data since you know the full trip, but even real-time should be doable.


This should be simple if there’s a beacon or Wifi on the train. Train goers will have that beacon in range on each location update while car goers will not (or may briefly if in-range of the train)


Pretty easy to train some ML network to differentiate between transport modes, assuming the device has a accelerometer / gyroscope / whatever.


Not really that easy with just IMU sensors, I’d assume ?

I did one project in school (albeit a simple SVM based model) to classify walking vs running (and so on) and ambiguity was still there. Stationary vs. Walking was easy to draw a hyper plane in between, not Running.

I still find it a difficult problem to get into, after 5 years. Perhaps ANN models might work better? Although my heart is still at Hidden MM states...


Do you have the code for your classification project? It would be great to see it on github or something.


I have it, not only the code but labelled dataset I created with an arduino, first, and then iPhone. It’s been a private repository forever, but thanks! I’ll make it public and Edit post the link down here.

(Its not pretty though...)

Edit: https://github.com/prashnts/MPU-9250

I have proper project reports I’d submitted somewhere for sure, as well. I’ll add it there in repo. I never bothered earlier.

Edit 2: this was the paper i finally submitted at school.

https://github.com/prashnts/MPU-9250/blob/master/Docs/submit...


I enjoyed reading that, thank you!


Thanks! To be more honest, this paper had a "constraint" against using FFT, simply because I didn't really know how it worked then...


Well if the people are actually navigating, in GMaps they normally have to select which mode they're using: car, bicycle, public trans, walking, etc.


Very good story for promoting mass transit! :)


A similar problem happens during unusual big snowfalls in the country or in the mountains. The primary roads turn red because the cars are going really slow cz there is 50cm of snow. So maps redirects you to secondary roads, where there is nobody and even more snow.


We got hit by a surprise blizzard once (driving from North Dakota to Minnesota, where it went from no trace of snow to blizzard in about 20 minutes of driving). Our car couldn't really make it up any road that wasn't well plowed.

I was trying to navigate to a hotel because I knew we couldn't make it back in this weather, but all the closest hotels weren't on main roads. I was desperately trying to figure out a way to tell Google "prefer main roads" so we could find a hotel that was several miles further away if that meant sticking to safer roads.

I thought a lot about how a feature like that could save lives in an emergency. Does this already exist anywhere?


> Does this already exist anywhere?

Of course, any basic offline routing application that doesn't have live traffic feed. Something like Osmand for example.

It's an interesting example of over-optimisation causing unforeseen effects. Perhaps better to rely on naive basic routing combined with external traffic condition prompts instead.


I wonder if you could quickly save offline maps for the area you're in and then kill the GSM connection. So you could still navigate but without traffic information.


Yes you can do this with google maps - have been able for a couple of years. Hit the hamburger then ‘offline maps’ and it will download your geographic region. Great for international travel as it will still pathfind


It does exist. Download offline maps for the region you are in. Then turn off the Internet connection. Ask Google Maps to do the routing while offline.


Offline routing works? Every time that I've previously tried offline routing on downloaded maps it spun for a while and then gave up with a connection error. I was under the impression that the only point of offline maps was for looking up locations, not for navigating to them.


Get Here WeGo, Nokia's maps app. You can download whole states/countries to use offline (it's all vector data so it's not too huge), and traffic data is optional. I've been using it since the Nokia N9 days.

Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.here.app.m...

iOS: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/here-wego-city-navigation/id95...


FYI this app has been sold by Nokia to a consortium of German carmakers (Audi, BMW and Daimler).


Yes it works in Google Maps. But only for moderately short drives (say, an hour or so).


Took a 9+ hour drive today, started offline and Google was able to navigate and plot it just fine. We had downloaded the maps for the area ahead of time.

Guessing maybe it outpaces what is downloaded when it starts having problems?


presumably your intended existing route was already on the main roads? while in navigation mode you can hit the search icon (magnifying glass) to search along the existing route. it won't be perfect but it should work for your use case.


This happened to me once. I was driving to a client while it was snowing. Google Maps told me that there was a faster, less busy way, and avoid the highway.

Yeah it was less busy -- because the locals knew damn well to avoid the crazy slick small roads. At some point, I lost control of the car and skidded off the road. Thankfully I didn't end in the ditch.


Scary, that could kill someone.


No problem, we have Terms of Service to avoid that liability.


Is it your opinion that Google (TOS aside) would be legally responsible for accidents that result from hazards on routes that Google directs propel to?


My opinion, probably not. But based on my legal knowledge (none), it may be arguable. TOS are just another brick in the wall.


Not really, if you die, nobody will probably know this was the case.


I like zooming out on google maps and you can see the red areas of the freeways shows where its snowing and matches the weather map.


Navigation apps have mostly settled into a comfortable state of "good enough" mediocrity. In addition to the "red but no traffic" problems highlighted by others I find turn by turn directions are incredibly annoying while driving in areas I'm intimately familiar with and there's no way to say "I know what I'm doing when I'm in this area" or "pause giving me voice directions for 10 minutes". Additionally:

* I can't compare multiple modes of transportation on the same map. E.g. driving vs. walking vs. transit.

* There's no way to optimize for minimizing left turns, especially onto busy streets.

* Multi-destination route optimization is not available. E.g. I need to go to the mall, the grocery store, and the bank, what's the sequence of destinations and route that minimizes travel time.[1]

Edit: [1] I realize this is describing the travelling salesman problem, but for small (<=4) n it should not be too difficult while still being useful in practice.


>There's no way to optimize for minimizing left turns, especially onto busy streets.

Woah, I've never heard anyone else mention this problem. It sounds strange having it said "out loud" because I thought it was just a weird personal quirk/irritation of mine.

I have always wished there was a route option of "easy mode driving," or "no pressure route."

Often the "quickest" route google maps shows me is one that has some sort of difficult turn across multiple lanes going the other direction into a "suicide lane" or what have you.

Either that, of some sort of merging is necessary where you're basically at the mercy of other drivers letting you in (especially tough if you're not an aggressive driver like myself).

Honestly, some maneuvers give me a lot of anxiety, like when I'm on a very busy two lane road (no middle lane) and google is telling me to turn left, so I have to sit there with my blinker on feeling terrible for pissing off all the drivers that are now pilling up behind me, while I anxiously wait for an opening.

Unless Im late for something important, I'd gladly go 5 minutes or more out of my way not to experience that kind of driving pressure/social anxiety. I have a moderate anxiety disorder so I know this might not be normal.

But you're absolutely right! I suppose it does in fact boil down to just having a route option with "no left turns" -- I had never thought of it that way. That's such a simple way to solve 95% of the problem.

----

Edit: a left turn lane, with a green left turn light is totally fine.

Edit 2: For the handful of caring but misguided people scrutinizing my aversion for left turns:

>Federal data have shown that 53.1 percent of crossing-path crashes involve left turns, but only 5.7 percent involve right turns.

sauce: 2001 - Analysis of Crossing Path Crashes - NHTSA



It's also a serious consideration for companies working on self-driving cars, as unprotected left turns are extremely difficult for the robots.


Not too surprising if we think about it. At a significant number of unprotected lefts at busy intersections, you basically have to semi-aggressively pull out in front of oncoming traffic and rely on them to slow down for you in order to get through in a reasonable time. It's tough to automate that in a safe way. Especially if it involves fuzzy value judgements about whether those cars seem like they'll probably slow down for you.


Would be a great navigation mode for maps apps to add. No left turn or easy driving mode. If ups does it, why not others?


That should just be the default routing unless it's absolutely unavoidable.


I think I read an article like this on HN a few months ago, ty for the share


Waze has a setting to "Avoid difficult intersections".


This is one of the most relatable things I've ever read on this website.


I've mostly given up on unprotected left turns onto huge streets (El Camino Real in my part of the Bay Area).

I'd rather turn right and then take the next U-turn to get back to where I want to go.

It reduces my social anxiety of people piling up behind me as I want to turn left, and it reduces my perception (right or wrong) of risk. When I turn left, I need to alternate looking left and right. When I turn right, I mostly only need to look to my left (unless there is a biker going opposite traffic, which has happened to me!).


In many legislations you are supposed to cycle against the motortraffic, especially if there is a bikepath.


Per this list of US state bicycle laws [0] (I don't have easy access to bicycle laws in other countries, so I can't attest to them), I don't see a single state that requires cyclists to ride against traffic. To the contrary, every single state (barring Illinois, which suggests that bicycles be treated as traffic but leaves direct enforcement up to individual municipalities) appears to require that cycles travel with traffic (see all references to "as far to the right as possible" in the "Where To Ride" sections).

[0] https://bikeleague.org/StateBikeLaws


I don't have anxiety about busy turns or cars behind me, but I still roll my eyes at elective left turns and stop signs, because I can't see how they're expected to save time. I would believe it could work out if you do rolling stops, accelerate hard between stop signs, and perform left turns with narrow margins. But if you're not driving that way, many "shortcuts" seem utterly counterproductive.


Maybe it's vey niche, but I'd like an "avoid traffic lights" setting. On common routes for me you'd often be a lot faster by going 1 minute out of your way to prevent a potential 5 minute wait at a traffic light during rush hour.


Not strange at all. Roundabouts were invented to obviate left turns.


Have you considered taking some driving lessons to become more assertive in traffic? You don't need to feel this way for a left-hand turn.


You do, and you should feel that way for a left turn.

This is a behavior we normalize in a driving society. Being assertive as you turn left does nothing to reduce the impact of another car hitting you at 45 miles an hour (or even faster in more rural places).

>A study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) shows that turning left is one of the primary causes of automobile collisions. 61 percent of crashes that occur while turning or crossing an intersection involve left turns, as opposed to just 3.1 percent that involve right turns.

>https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/...

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2014/04/0...


There's a line to be walked between his decently extreme opinion and your decently extreme opinion on left turns (yes, I know this is a potential middle ground fallacy). No you shouldn't barrel on into them but they're not as dangerous as your comment implies. As like most things driving as long as you have decent situational awareness they're fine.


Sadly no one is perfect, building roads that allow misstakes to safely be made is vital. See the road design vision of zero fatality. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vision_Zero


I just get some social anxiety when people back up behind me, or anytime I feel like my driving is "imposing" on others. I know it's somewhat irrational. But I doubt a driving lesson would help with my more general problem of social anxiety.

Anyway, I'd rather be this type of driver than an overly dense person who doesn't mind backing up traffic. The type of people that will go sideways blocking four lanes coming out of a gas station to get to the turn lane...

I learned to drive in a "defensive" manner. Yes, sometimes non-action can be more dangerous in a specific situation; but feeling bad about backing up traffic doesn't make me a bad driver. Just an socially anxious one.

I agree though, in the original comment, I probably made it sound worse than it actually is for me. I just wish google maps had this option. I would find driving more pleasant.

Edit: I made some edits, to clear up my response


I understand your point. I live right behind a three lane road that has left turn onto a street next to my house. You end up turning left across four lanes of traffic and you can’t always see the far lane. The far lane may not back up due to becoming a turn lane and cars are going faster thanks overall traffic. The city disallows left turns from 3-7pm, but I don’t make that turn if there is a modicum of traffic at any point in time. There is at least one accident a week there as people try to make that turn. Anytime traffic is red, it would be better for nav apps to reroute to safer turns.


How long have you been driving? That feeling should go away with some time.


almost 20 years... so yeah I dont think it's going away. Being anxious about backing up traffic or the other things I described isn't that abnormal I don't think?

When Ive been a passenger, Ive seen most other drivers feel this way--whether they say it or not, you can see on their face they are feeling anxious.


Yes, we do exist but for someone that does not have a special problem can't see the problem. Many also have a problem with empathy, just can't think how that ever would be a problem.


I definitely relate to the anxiety, but like I said, I've learned over time to control it. Much like stage fright (which I definitely have), I guess it's a situation where you can learn to operate. They are similar in that, other participants want you to succeed and are not judging you as much as you judge yourself. I think what I have learned is that, the less I judge others (on stage, or on the road) and the more empathetic and understanding I am, the less I am worried about others judging me.


I dont think it's necessarily a bad thing


Yeah, "don't inconvenience anyone else" is a pretty good as far as simple driving strategies go.


Agreed. It's a close cousin of my personal #1 driving safety strategy: "don't do anything surprising."


Everyone on the road is inconveniencing everyone else all the time. I prefer the strategy of accepting it, rather than letting it bother me. I also don't judge others for inconveniencing me. We're all just trying to get to point B at the end of the day.


http://theconversation.com/why-ups-drivers-dont-turn-left-an... (Why UPS drivers don’t turn left and you probably shouldn’t either)


> There's no way to optimize for minimizing left turns

Any decent road routing engine does take into consideration a "turn penalty" and makes left turns more costly then right, among other things. E.g. see the Valhalla docs (Mapbox's routing engine):

> Turn type - whether the turn is a left turn, right turn, or is crossing another road. The cost applied to the turn type also needs to know if driving is done on the left side or right side of the road. While left turns are generally more costly in the US than right turns, the opposite holds in UK.

https://github.com/valhalla/valhalla/blob/716fd6e99ab6f271b6...

OSRM also does this, but slightly differently: https://github.com/Project-OSRM/osrm-backend/wiki/Traffic#tu...

---

With routing applications there are many configurable parameters, rather than providing too many options and risking overwhelming the user some of these things are simply baked into the ETA calculation.


In the Google Maps app (both on Android and Android Auto) you can toggle between "Muted", "Alerts only" and "Unmuted". Alerts only is what I almost always use, and it only comes up to warn of congestion (eg "6 minutes of congestion ahead, this is still the fastest route"), accidents, suggested or required detours, etc.

The Google Maps android and web apps also let you switch between transportation modes to compare driving, walking, cycling and public transit. You can even change it to "leave at" or "arrive by" for any time of day for any day of the week, and it'll give you a decent idea of trip time.

I agree with the other suggestions though, it would be handy to minimize (unprotected) left turns, and optimize travel time.

The last one is probably more nuanced than it seems though. For example, I will usually want to go to the grocery store last to minimize the time groceries are sitting in a hot/freezing car, depending on what I'm buying and the weather.


Though Google Maps does have that handy ability to switch to "Alerts Only" (as does Waze), I agree that it still has a lot of room for improvement. For example, if I'm headed to a new location where I need turn-by-turn directions, I want them turned on. However, I do not need them for getting out of my subdivision. I wish there was a way to have "Alerts Only" for routes I've traveled multiple times and "Unmuted" once Google Maps determines I'm in an area I have not been to before or have only been to a few times.


That's a great idea. It would be really nice if the first direction when leaving your house was something like "Head to hwy 401 and go East".


I've found there can also be an inverse of the "red but no traffic" problem where Google Maps is unable to understand that there can be multiple lanes traveling at different speeds on the same street. When I lived in SF I would always run into this at the freeway entrance on 5th and Bryant (shoutout to the worst intersection in the city). The two leftmost lanes going onto the freeway would be backed up for blocks but because the right lanes were open they would average it to a moderate traffic rating and would always want to route me to get onto the freeway via that shitshow.


I get that all the time in Vancouver. The lane(s) that eventually hit the bridge barely move, but get averaged with the flowing traffic in the other lane. Google Maps will always suggest taking two bridges on my morning commute.

Apple Maps seems to do a better job on this specific issue.


Like others, I'm glad to see somebody else has noticed the turn issue with navigation. Minimising difficult turns (left/right depending on where you are in the world) across multiple lanes would be fantastic.

Many a time I've need to navigate somewhere fast, so even if I could've found my own way there I'll use Gmaps to find the "quickest" router around traffic, etc. Sometimes it works great, others I find I'm having to make a difficult turn across 4 lanes of traffic on both sides of the road, and I'm stuck there in peak hour for 5 mins waiting for a break. Google only optimised for distance and traffic I was in. (I.e. The traffic on both the roads was fast moving, but entering the fast moving traffic took a long time). Optimising only for the speed of traveling in traffic as opposed to entering it (from a turn) can cause this.

Another pet peeve of mine, is if you're doing a long distance road trip, you sometimes want to see where the next stop could be. That is, you haven't planned it, but your destination is set to somewhere 7 hours away and you'd like to stop within the next hour. There's no easy way to see where a good place could be. I want a "road trip" mode where you can bring up something a bit like those road side signs that tell you the distance to the next 5 towns or whatever. So on your phone you tap an info button, and get distance and time to the next x townships that are on your route or a short detour away.


There used to be an app for this exact problem. I think it was called “Up Next”, and it looked at your direction of travel and what was known to be on or near the road, within a given set distance. They made a point of having all the information from all the road signs in their database, and knowing exactly what was available at which exit, which direction you’d have to turn when you got off, and how far you’d have to drive after the exit.

When my wife and I did more road trips, we used to make quite a lot of use of that one.

Not sure whatever happened to it, but I haven’t used it for years.


Microsoft Streets & Trips had this feature around 1997. It also had the feature your parent asked for where it would optimize a route with more than two locations (travelling salesman).

Yes, 1997, so you needed a laptop in your car and a person other than the driver to operate it, but it worked.


> I find turn by turn directions are incredibly annoying while driving in areas I'm intimately familiar with and there's no way to say "I know what I'm doing when I'm in this area" or "pause giving me voice directions for 10 minutes".

I've turned off voice navigation altogether. It's just not necessary in most cases. Just take a minute or two before departure to actually read the map and the route, if you are not pressed for time. It also gives you much better spatial awareness of where you are going and how you are going there.


I check map apps for my best commute option a lot. My gripe is that for each leg of my commute, there are about 3 or 4 options, and I know how to drive all of them, but turn-by-turn insists on explaining it. What I want is a summary when I head out, and possibly an update at decision points. I just have no idea how to make an app (or an interface) for that.


I think turning off voice navigation will help. You simply drive each leg on your own and glance at the navigation screen at the decision points.


I just say "OK, Google stop navigating"


Another feature I want is "money is no object mode" when travelling around new york city. Sometimes it's fastest to take the subway, sometimes it's fastest to take a Lyft/Uber, but sometimes it's fastest to take the subway part of the way, and then take an uber from there. This last situation is really tough to figure out by hand with the existing tools.


Here you go: https://www.uber.com/blog/new-york-city/uber-copter/

I promise it's almost always the fastest (I knew someone who had corporate access to it for big clients).


In general there would also be a use for optimizing time vs cost.

In all driving apps you either take all tolls or none. It should be possible to optimize cost vs time saved, taking some tolls (which gain you enough time to justify their cost), but not all.


Citymapper does this. It sometimes works in London: the app supports NYC but I don't know if either the feature is supported or if it's functional.

When you've set your start and destination scroll down and there's a section called "multimodal labs".


My wife and I regularly talk about how "Thanks Google, I'll take it from here" is the best Maps features that doesn't exist.


You mean pressing “end route” ?


Common scenario: I’m somewhere unfamiliar, going home, and I need to be home at a certain time. Once I’m on the freeway I no longer need the navigation, but I still want the en route traffic info and ETA.


> Once I’m on the freeway I no longer need the navigation, but I still want the en route traffic info and ETA.

Apple Maps on CarPlay added this feature and I love it. It works great for routes where I pretty much know the way but want a heads up for traffic and such.


Traffic Message Channel on your car radio? RDS-TMC kicks in where appropriate even without a "data link" (eg. no 4G / 3G data link)


Sure, but I'm driving. It'd be nice if it was configurable or automatic, is the point.


Exactly, I just hit Exit in GMaps, and it works well.


Yes! Or maybe a radius around around your house where navigation stops, just like how you can set an area of maps which is downloaded.

I guess, though, I would probably only want navigation to stop if I'm going to my house, not from it.


The case I find most annoying is driving from one city to another. I don't need directions on how to get to the highway, nor on how to drive straight for 200km[1]. I just want directions when I get close to the city I'm unfamiliar with. Currently, the best solution is turning on directions only when I get a chance to stop near my destination city.

[1] It seems this has gotten better in recent years with less frequent nagging to "proceed straight for 50km" from the app.


It’s maybe different in the UK but it’s great to have it for motorway (highway) journeys where a closure of a section of road can leave you dealing with a 4 mile route around winding roads. It’s also great for avoiding the traffic in the first place.


I _hate_ how all map programs think they need to tell you to keep going straight. It seems to be because the road you are on will change its name.

The worst example I've had is that a road changed it's name 70m before it split into two. The app would only show "In XXXm, continue straight" then, with 70m warning, it told me which lane I needed. That was stressful.


I want the screen to stop dimming when navigating crucial junctions.


Or an option to say, "Hey Google, I'm fine until I get to the highway" or if Google proactively said, "I noticed that the last 5 miles of your route is on roads you have not traveled before. Would you like turn-by-turn directions for the last 5 miles?"


Does it not have the ability to mute navigation?

Apple Maps in CarPlay has this option, and I only ever use it muted. It’s fine even when I don’t know where I’m going, since I just glance at the screen to see the next turn/distance and that’s all I need anyway.


You can press the X on the bottom left of the navigation page, which halts the navigation. To start back up, just press Start again.


I've often thought it would be fun to have a "novel navigate" option, where instead of just picking the fastest route it would try and pick a route that is somehow interesting, or that I haven't been on.

I find it pretty boring to drive the same route over and over, and I'd gladly spend another 15 minutes if it means I get a more interesting route.


> there's no way to say "I know what I'm doing when I'm in this area"

Apple Maps (at least in CarPlay) has a "tap for ETA" feature. It collapses the navigation block and only leaves the blue (yellow, red) line on the map and an estimated ETA at the bottom.

I use this daily during my commute where I passively want to know if there's some traffic up ahead, but don't need help to know where I am going.

It's not automatic (e.g. Geo-fence setting), but it is just one tap.


> I realize this is describing the travelling salesman problem, but for small (<=4) n it should not be too difficult while still being useful in practice.

Google actually already has an api that does exactly this called Google OR-Tools[1]. They could totally build this feature into google map if they want.

[1] https://developers.google.com/optimization/


My personal pet peeve: using the wrong language for the region. So, I'm a native English speaker - but I'm driving around Germany. Give me the names of the streets in German only - NOPE.

Still can't find any way to fix this issue. Its terribly annoying.


What do the English equivalents look like? I do the same in Vietnam but I'd rather hear the proper pronounciation rather than a butchered one.


When a German street name is synthesised using English settings, its a proper butchering. Just not good at all.

I want the instructions in English - but I want the place-names in the native language. This is the only sensible way, yet none of the Maps vendors seem to have understood this. Do they not use their products?


Semi-related anecdote: A few years ago, for a while Google Maps insisted on labelling White City (in London) as "White Stadt" and the M25 as "Autoroute brittanique M25" (and not just for French users).


> apps have mostly settled into a comfortable state of "good enough" mediocrity.

Almost all of the “major” popular apps are mediocre, with simple bugs and missing functionality or bad design for years, despite user complaints and requests. Maps, Translate, Skype, WhatsApp, Instagram, Instagram, Discord, Tinder, OKCupid, and even most of Apple’s own stuff. It’s like they fired all but one developer after they became popular.


Honestly i'd love a simplest route option, with minimal turns, especially for areas i dont know well. I'm ok if my driving route takes 5 min longer if I dont have to take a left turn on that 4 lane road, or the weird y intersection, or the very quick left turn followed immediately by the right turn that requires getting across 3 lanes of traffic


On Google maps on mobile, you should be able to touch the volume icon, then pick one of three audio modes, on, off, or one in between where I think it just gives you warnings but not street by street directions (has a speaker with a ! next to it as an icon. But it only shows up when you are actually routing


It's also important for these apps to consider if it's really legally allowed for the current driver of the current vehicle to drive on that street.


How can an app tell what vehicle it is in and what qualifications the driver has?


Waze has settings for this.


Kind of my point, it relies on the user setting something.


Not really a problem though. It's trivial to ask.


Might be true in a haply belief but I give you one first big critique:

It's NOT easy to time the release of such a feature.

In fact, since this is not easy, I see a big opportunity for a competitor to Waze.


do they have "how tall is your rental truck?"

I had a friend I helped move and we had to deal with google continually routing us towards low bridges.


You can buy satnavs with that feature: https://www.tomtom.com/en_gb/sat-nav/truck-sat-nav/ and of course, many truck rental companies will also rent you such a sat nav.


Does it work 100% of the time? Is it mathematically disproven, that it won't fail on any occasion?

Is it mathematically proven, that every bridge is always appearing in the dataset after it is possible to drive underneath it? Or over it?


No, having a sat nav doesn't obviate the need to be attentive to road signs and the size of your vehicle.

No map data supplier warrants that their data is free from errors, and even if they did the data could be out-of-date within hours as roads are being built all the time.

There is no proof - mathematical or otherwise - a sat nav won't switch off if you fail to plug it in. Neither is there any proof a bridge won't be closed due to roadworks, an accident, or other reasons.


How about drones?


In OsmAnd you can set vehicle parameters: height, weight, and width limits.


you could probably just tell it your vehicle and/or qualifications if it was important enough,


True, maybe by scanning the number sign plate.


This is especially important in Europe where we are having more and more city centers reserved for inhabitants, or forbidden to polluting vehicles.


Is it? I think we can decide for ourselves.


I don't know; I rented a truck in an NYC outer borough for a move and had the hardest time navigating through the city because I had no easily accessible way to figure out where trucks were allowed.


I stopped a car in a local forest because the street there is not legally accessible for cars, which don't have a special permit.

They gave reason: navigation system.


IIRC, minimizing left turns was a massive cost-saving measure for UPS (or was it FedEx?) back when consumer-facing GPS systems were becoming commonplace.


> Multi-destination route optimization is not available.

OsmAnd+ on F-Droid[1] has this feature, although the UX isn't stellar. Add intermediate destinations to your itinerary then the Edit next to intermediate destinations > Sort > Door-to-door.

[1] https://f-droid.org/app/net.osmand.plus


> Navigation apps have mostly settled into a comfortable state of "good enough" mediocrity.

There are some hidden gems out there. I've been using Locus Map Pro (Android app) for all my cycling and geocaching needs for the last few years, and some of the things you mention do have solutions in it. The app is not at all beginner-friendly, there's like a million various options and functions, but if you're willing to spend time configuring it, usually you can have it do whatever you want.

> I know what I'm doing when I'm in this area

When planning a route, it's possible to choose whether to generate navigation instructions, and this can be chosen for any part of the route separately. It's also possible to delete individual nav instructions or manually add new ones.

> I can't compare multiple modes of transportation on the same map

The route can be saved and then shown/hidden on the map, and there's probably no limit on how many routes can be shown. Color and line width is configurable, too. But yeah, it will be quite a manual process, unfortunately.

> There's no way to optimize for minimizing left turns

I think that if the navigation engine is switched to BRouter, it's possible to assign different weights to left/right turns. But I have to admit that tweaking these parameters is too much even for me.

At this point it's also worth mentioning that it only uses OSM routing engines (GraphHopper, BRouter, YOURS), so it can't take traffic into account. Which is fine for my needs (cycling), as I'd rather see the Strava heatmap (and I can!) than live traffic data. :-)

(I'm not affiliated with the project but I do use it a lot and have built an add-on against their API, so I'm a huge fanboy.)


I tend to avoid uncontrolled left hand turns into traffic like the plague. I will gladly make 3 right hand turns to avoid the stress...


" ... there's no way to say "I know what I'm doing when I'm in this area" or "pause giving me voice directions for 10 minutes"."

Yes, this is a very obvious feature that one encounters almost immediately when adopting direction tools like this and, like you, I am quite surprised this isn't fixed.

Related: an option, or even a default, to pause media playback for the duration of directions dictation, rather than just drown it out ... if you are listening to news, etc., you can miss 15+ seconds of content while a longer direction is dictated.

Again: these are not hyper-distilled, personal features that took man hours to discover - these are features that one discovers almost immediately, across a broad spectrum of use-cases. Very surprising that it hasn't been "fixed".


About pausing media playback versus fading down the audio, on iOS, this is controlled completely by the OS, but on Android, it's up to the media player. There's an audiobook player for Android called Smart Audiobook Player that does pause its playback when something else cuts in. For me, this usually happens when I do something that makes the TalkBack screen reader [1] speak while playing an audiobook.

[1]: I'm legally blind.


Turning left can also be an extremely time-consuming task. Somebody I know drives a 3km longer route on his daily commute but is home about 10 minutes earlier because the shorter (and Google recommended) route contains two left turns that take incredibly long. Optimizing this should really be a goal.


> Optimizing this should really be a goal.

After many of my travel using Google Maps, I get a notification asking whether the route recommended was right. I never had a bad one (where they asked it at least) so I don't know what happens if I do answer no, but I guess it's to allow to optimize theses kinds of situation.


Google has recently started to tip its toes in something I've been wanting for so many years: mixing transit and cycling. But it's still mostly useless. For now Google suggests I cycle to the train and then take the train and then change to the subwat, and then walk the rest of the way. But what I want is to take my bike _inside_ the train with me, commute only in transit that allows bikes, and then bike the last mile.


The left turn (or in my case in Australia, right turn) problem is huge and my biggest issue with google maps (and I expect the others are the same but I don’t use any others).

I don’t want to take a backstreet only to pop out at the freeway where I need to turn over 6 lanes with no lights....

I feel it’s getting worse, it’s like google maps is trying to get trickier about where it sends you but the outcome for me seems to be getting worse.


Or, I know there is a faster way, but I want to go via this road.

The number of times I’ve patiently entered multiple points to force a certain route, only to have it ‘optimise’ it for me, on route, without a clear notification, is incredibly frustrating.

It’s not always about the destination, sometimes it’s about the journey. And no, I don’t care that it’s 7 minutes slower!!


the best is the complicated left turn on a busy intersection to save a 1 minute. Litearlly, the other route is a minute longer. It seems like a clash of computers versus reality. The reasons a route is optimal is still not known to a gps system.


>* There's no way to optimize for minimizing left turns, especially onto busy streets.

Waze has precisely this option.


> I can't compare multiple modes of transportation on the same map. E.g. driving vs. walking vs. transit.

I do this all the time. I click between car, public transport, and walking to see the difference in travel time.


I'm guessing they'd like to see the three at once.


I often do multi-destination optimization manually on Google Maps desktop. It's practical to solve the small-n travelling salesman problem through manual brute force, it should be doable automatically.


> There's no way to optimize for minimizing left turns, especially onto busy streets.

I use Google Maps for cycling directions, and I get frustrated that I can't tell it to avoid big roads.


Not sure if everyone knows about this, but if you click on the headlines on this website, like "Google Maps Hacks," in this case, there's an article there. Most of us are using the comment space in this forum to discuss what's in the articles behind each of the headlines. It's a really great forum for doing this because there are many bright people close to the tech discussed. For example, it sounds like you've got some experience with the tech, so I'm curious what your thoughts would be on the content in the article behind this headline.


This sort of comment section you are commenting about is par for the course. Check out n-gate.com for some back-to-earth commentary on it all.


> There's no way to optimize for minimizing left turns, especially onto busy streets.

Presumably this is already factored into route timings?


The time taken might be factored in but:

* On busy streets, left turns through uncontrolled intersections can have high variability. So you might be unlucky and get stuck for several minutes waiting to turn. A slower, but more predictable route might be better if you need to arrive on time.

* Left turns are simply more stressful than right turns. Saving a minute might not be worth the pain.


Your variability point extends beyond just left turns. Routes with lots of lights or that cross train tracks have extra variability. If I'm leaving with barely enough time I want directions that have low time variance since I cannot afford to be on the wrong side of the distribution. Other times I'm willing to risk some variance for a shorter expected time.


I can usually just find an acceptably easier route (less bad left turns) picking one of the given alternatives.


* Side trips, eg find coffee then resume main trip.


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