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Where does Google get it's live traffic data from?

Referring to a post that I wrote earlier, Google’s - Live traffic Layer, ever wondered how Google collected this data? I was wondering the other day, how Google received live data to display it on their maps as a layer! I looked up the web and found something very interesting and am sharing the same with you all.

As we all know, the traffic layer is available most accurately in several states in USA. Most major metro areas in the US have sensors embedded in their highways. These sensors track real time traffic data. Easy to miss at high speeds (hopefully anyway, traffic permitting), more commonly noticed may be the similar sensors that often exist at many busy intersections that help the traffic lights most efficiently let the most amount of people through. The information from these tracking sensors is reported back to the Department of Transportation (DOT). The DOT uses this data to update some of the digital signs that report traffic conditions in many metro areas. They also openly share much of this frequently updated data out, which is how Google reportedly gets this data for the major highways in the metro areas it offers traffic reporting for.

Google has now also crowd sourced the collection of real time traffic data via mobile phones. The way in which they are doing this is pretty cool, and may prove to be a way to some day provide quality real time traffic data for all roadways. If you have a Google Maps installed on a mobile phone with GPS capabilities enabled, your location can be transmitted to Google in real time, allowing them to determine the fact that you are on a particular road and traveling at a certain pace. When Google combines your speed with the speed of other phones on the road, across thousands of phones moving around a city at any given time, they can get a pretty good picture of live traffic conditions. Google continuously combines this data and sends it back to you for free in the Google Maps traffic layers. In this way, Google can now offer traffic reports for secondary roadways, routes not necessarily containing DOT sensors.

We now have a list of all the places where Google shows live traffic information. Check out this awesome map from Google, here. You can read more and see the Google’s traffic layer in action here. If you have read so far, I am sure you would also like to know more about the Google Bicycle routes layer.


  1. Yes, this is what is expected. I have been testing google traffic for some time now in Italy. It *often* gives an indication of the traffic conditions in near real-time. However sometimes it gets it awfully wrong. I am very curious about where this incorrect info comes from. Also there is no data for most of the roads in Italy, and the data is available for small sections of road here and there in the road network. I am very curious about why data is unavailable for most of the roads and only available in this patchy form.
    George Mu'ammar @GeoMmm

    1. Hi George.

      The traffic data is not widely available in many countries and that is because of lack of available resource and lot of legal government permissions and stuff go into the actually mapping for companies.

      Also the contribution from the crowd (crowd-sourcing) is not very good in several countries which also results in poor details on the Google Maps and associated services.

      Hope this answers your query. Please keep posting your feedback. Happy to hear from you.

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  2. Hi,

    Is there any free API for developers which can provide real time traffic speed or calculate time required to travel two points ?

    If there is any other possible way please share me at

    Deepchand Singh

    1. Hi Deep.

      Sorry for replying late. As far as the traffic data API goes there are none as far as I know. Please correct me if you have found any.

      For the distance calculation and time required to move from point A to B you can use the Google Distance API.

      Hope this helps. I would be more than happy to answer any more queries.

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  3. Hi,
    Thanks for this post. Could you please point to some references from where you got this information? I know several agencies that provide traffic data: PeMS (loop detector data for freeways only), Inrix, DoT, Navteq, etc. Was just wondering which of those sources Google employs.

    1. Hi Ish.

      I know one source for sure and that is Inrix for traffic data. Inrix currently offers data for around 22 countries across North America and Europe. Inrix’s other partners include Audi AG, ADAC, ALK, ANWB, Coyote, the Ford Motor Company, I-95 Coalition, MapQuest, Microsoft, NAVIGON, Tele Atlas, Telmap, TeleNav, Texas Transportation Institute and Toyota.

      Hope this helps.

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  4. Is there an API we can use (or a KML Network feed) that would plot the green/yellow/red traffic conditions? Or is there an RSS/Atom feed that would provide the data (which we could then transform into a KML feed for map plotting)?

    essentially I'm looking for sources (free is best) that would give the data in a machine-readable format to consume and either produce KML or consume KML and plot to a google map.

    Thoughts? Thank you Shreerang!

    1. Hi...I don't think there would be any such data that would be freely available. Having said so, I will check if I find any. If you find any, please post it here!

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  5. Hi is there any way, someone have access to Google real-time traffic data. I'm working on my Master Theses, comparing City traffic data with google. Would you please help me. My email is OMIDMCSE@HOTMAIL.COM thank you

  6. This is false information .

    Check out this link if you want to really know how Google obtains its data.

  7. This isnt false Wth are you talking about? Google's article backs up exactly what was said here. Either back up your statements or stop making arrogant comments. You aren't helping anyone.

  8. what they hell is that download the plugin screen crawl you're putting up?


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