Google has released an update to its Android GPS app that will automatically route you around traffic jams. This sort of Wisdom of the Crowds data aggregation is fascinating to me because I think it would appreciably improve life using technology very transparently. The trick, though, is getting people to use it. I generally only think about using a map application when I’m going somewhere new. What this app wants is for you to use it all the time, since that’s when it’s going to provide the most benefit.
What’s funny is that all of this innovation is happening on mobile phones while in-car GPS units are so far behind. A GPS unit built into a car can put controls where they’re easier to access as opposed to on a separate unit. Phones or standalone GPS machines need to be charged, so you have to deal with cables. They can be stolen more easily, or dropped, or left in the house. But, as I recently discovered when weighing options for car purchases, a factory-installed GPS system costs an extra $1600 in a Toyota Camry, while it’s a free app on an Android phone. And the Toyota one in DVD-based, so you have to actually send away for new discs when they change the roads! There are so many cool technological applications that would be possible if you could get a certain percentages of cars on the road reporting their locations to one-another, but that’s just impossible until in-car systems catch up, which could never happen.