How Apple Maps' Live Traffic Could Help You Navigate

Get from A to B without stopping at C

Key Takeaways

  • Apple has updated its Maps software to allow live traffic conditions reporting. 
  • Siri will let you report accidents or hazards you see along the way. 
  • The update brings Apple Maps closer to parity with other mapping applications like Waze, which have long offered the ability to report problems along the route.
Apple CarPlay displayed on a car LED screen.
Dimitir Karastelev / Getty Images

Navigating through traffic could soon get easier thanks to an Apple Maps update. 

Apple is upgrading its Maps app with live traffic reports in a bid to compete with other route-finding competitors like Waze. Siri will let you report accidents or hazards you see along the way. Experts say the new features could be a boon for users. 

"Consumers need as up-to-date maps as possible," Max Zhang, head of partnerships at mapping software company NextBillion AI, said in an email interview.

"Although historical traffic is enough to predict drive time and directions for 98% of trips, there are niche cases live traffic updates are necessary for."

Hey Siri, I See an Accident

The iOS 14.5 beta, which isn’t yet available to the public, adds the Maps feature that lets you report accidents, hazards, and speed checks. When you input an address, select a route, and then choose "Go," Siri notifies you that you can report accidents or hazards along the way. 

By tapping the detailed map area, you can press a "Report" button that lets you notify about an accident, a hazard, or a speed check. The feature also reportedly works on Apple’s Carplay software, built into the dashboard display of some car models. 

Drivers will be able to report road issues and incidents by using Siri. For example, you could say, "Hey, Siri, there seems to be an accident on the side of the road."

"Although historical traffic is enough to predict drive time and directions for 98% of trips, there are niche cases live traffic updates are necessary for."

The update brings Apple Maps closer to parity with other mapping applications like Waze, which have long offered the ability to report problems along the route. 

The arms race among online map makers is heating up. Google is rolling out a new version of Google Maps that includes details such as crosswalks, footpaths, and pedestrian refuge islands. In Central London, Tokyo, San Francisco, and New York, the shapes and widths also match roads’ scale more accurately.

Also, parks now display the width of pathways in dark green, along with stairs in grey. The Street View on Google also recently was updated with a split-screen mode. The new view is available when you open Street View after dropping a map pin. 

Waze vs. Apple Maps

For most users, the app Waze is the best alternative solution to Apple Maps, "since the technology is built to react to crowdsourced information and near real-time updates," Zhang said. He added that "there are a community aspect and the culture of Waze users as they tend to be contributors."

Map software also is branching out into entertainment. Waze recently announced that it would be integrating Audible audiobooks into its app.

Audible members can listen on Waze by opening the Waze app and tapping the music note icon to select Audible as their audio player. Audible members also will receive next turn directions from Waze inside the Audible app.

Recorded maps don’t always work, points out Zhang. For example, he said bad weather or occurrences of civil unrest need to be marked off, so people aren't driving into risky areas.

A smartphone mounted on an automobile air vent displaying a mapping application.
Isaac Mehegan / Unsplash

"Using real-time traffic data allows for mapping companies to analyze whether a path should be taken or avoided," he added. "This has a lot to do with public safety as well as the driver's outlook on the reliability of a mapping service."

Zhang had the misfortune to test out mapping without real-time traffic updates during a recent trip from the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles. A road was closed due to snow, and Google, for some reason, didn't provide updated directions based on real-time traffic, he said. 

"I drove up to the point of road closure only to find that everyone was turning back and taking an alternative route," he added.

"Ultimately, this added an additional six hours to my trip through snowy mountain passages, which I was not prepared for. My car even got stuck in snow during the passage, as we were not informed early enough about what to expect."

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