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US citizens avoid tailbacks with new Google traffic tracker

Avoid congestion but crash instead?

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It can only be a matter of "when" before a Google user drives into a tree, trying to see which roads are congested, on the display of their mobile phone. But probably, traffic message channel (TMC) information users (like Trafficmaster) will already have hit the same tree.

The new service, announced in 30 major US cities yesterday, allows the Google mapping data to be overlaid by traffic news, with red-coded roads on the map being "avoid" and green ones being "OK" with the inbetween tracks yellow to orange, depending how bad they are.

In the UK, TMC data can already be viewed on mobiles via TrafficTV, which is currently offering Orange users a free one-month trial service.

The TrafficTV product doesn't just show maps, but also lets you choose to see live CCTV images of the traffic. It works well if the passenger does the navigating and mobile button pushing...but if you are going slowly enough to drive and operate the phone, it's probably too late to avoid the jam.

Genuine GPS navigators like Navicore also offers a congestion service, but the driver gets the warnings audibly, not only on a display. The company allows you to use a standard Nokia Series 60 smartphone, linked via Bluetooth to the GPS unit. TMC traffic routing data is now free with the standard subscription.

In the circumstances, the Google launch in Europe will not be seen as much of a story, when it comes. Google had no information on its plans for expansion at press time.

To learn more about today's announcement, or to see the full range of mobile products and services available from Google, visit mobile.google.com.

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