Yahoo Inc. is set to offer an online service that lets users view live U.S. local traffic conditions on custom-created maps, the first site to do so nationally, the company said.
In a milestone for Internet-based traffic services, Yahoo has beefed up its existing mapping services to allow customers to plot a route from one local destination to another, and overlay traffic data such as road speeds and potential delays.
The new service can be found at https://maps.yahoo.com/.
While local radio, television and weather sites have offered traffic tracking for years, many of the maps and features are primitive. No national site exists that offers dynamically generated traffic maps, Yahoo executives said.
“Certainly the distribution of this content on the Yahoo site is just a starting point,” Paul Levine, general manager of Yahoo’s local services unit, said in an interview. Eventually, users away from computers may be able to receive traffic alerts via e-mail or on phones with links to live maps, he said.
He declined to say whether or when a version of the service might be offered on mobile devices such as phones, wireless handheld computers or car location systems. The service is currently only available for viewing U.S. road conditions.
The traffic mapping feature, which will be available across Yahoo’s search, local content and map sections of the site, is the latest move to enhance Yahoo’s local information push and follows rival Google’s own recent push into online mapping.
Google recently acquired Keyhole Corp., a supplier of online satellite maps that allow users to zoom to street level and view locations such as buildings or even cars. A big limitation is that Keyhole maps rely on previously collected photos and as such give no snapshot of current conditions.
By contrast, Yahoo’s dynamic maps draw on real-time traffic information from metropolitan transportation departments and private providers, including embedded road sensors, traffic cameras, police scanners, and traffic helicopters. Yahoo declined to identify the exact sources of its traffic data.
The site boasts traffic accident reports and road construction information in more than 70 metropolitan areas, in effect covering regions where three-quarters of the U.S. population lives. Real-time driving speed data will be available in the more than 20 top metropolitan markets.
The new service generates regional maps that include the user’s starting point and destination. Roadways are colored green, yellow and red, to highlight the normal movement of traffic, minor delays or severe road congestion. A user can hover over a stretch of road to view details of impediments. They can drill down at hazards to see further details.
Yahoo’s existing map service allows users to type in only single addresses, then zoom in or out on the resulting local map. Icons displaying convenient entertainment, shopping and services can be served up at the user’s request.