GPS traffic updates: Fact or Fiction?
August 20, 2011 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Do the fancy higher-end features (traffic, eco route, etc.) of auto GPS units actually work?

I'm looking into buying a GPS and trying to sort through the various models and features is starting to make me go cross-eyed.

Being able to avoid jammed-up areas (especially with the frantic road construction going on in Edmonton) would be lovely. The radio stations do a decent job of telling people to avoid such-and-such street, but I haven't been here long enough to know how to avoid them if such-and-such street is the route that I know.

So. How well do these traffic updates work? How much of an advance warning do they give? I'm intrigued, but I don't want to shell out for them if they're a bunch of marketing hogwash.
posted by CKmtl to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I have a TomTom, and it works great. I live in Boston, and frequently travel around the city, or down to Hartford or New York, and it often tells me there's a route that will save me X number of minutes. It can also tell me where there are delays on my route, and how long those delays will, um, delay me.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 11:11 AM on August 20, 2011

I can't speak to subscription GPS live-traffic, but I use the Google Navigation GPS on my Android phone which has free traffic data and yes, it's pretty accurate.
posted by InsanePenguin at 11:18 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have a bottom of the line TomTom One, without the traffic info. Since I got my Android phone I now use that instead, and like InsanePenguin said, it works well in every respect.

One way or the other I'd say that especially if you drive in congested areas, it is worth having a device that will deal with heavy traffic, construction, etc.
posted by imjustsaying at 11:41 AM on August 20, 2011

Best answer: I've just started using a new GPS (NUVi) in and around Toronto and The golden horseshoe and I've found the results to be 50/50. I've as often been derouted around a serious delay as It has tried to warn me of phantom incidents (I think mostly when it registers a particular part of road as a construction zone not realizing it is 3pm on Sunday and there is no crew present).

Since then I tend to rely on it in concert with radio updates and also what google maps traffic is showing on my iPhone.
posted by dismitree at 12:49 PM on August 20, 2011

I use MotionX GPS Drive on my iPhone, which can incorporate traffic info, but one problem I've found is that it only checks the traffic database once -- when the route is initially calculated. This isn't a problem if I'm going somewhere close by (less than 30 minutes away) as traffic is unlikely to change much during that time. But if I'm going on a long trip (say, driving down to NJ from Boston) then by the time I reach the NYC area, the traffic could have changed dramatically from what MotionX thought it was 2-3 hours ago. I asked the MotionX folks, and they told me the only way to deal with this is to manually recalculate the route periodically as I'm driving.

So...I don't know if other GPS devices/apps behave the same way, but you may want to look into whichever one you plan on buying to see how it reacts to long drives / changing traffic conditions enroute.
posted by Nothlit at 1:46 PM on August 20, 2011

Another vote here for Google Navigation. I have it on my Android phone as well, and used it just a few hours ago and it automatically routed me around on-going road construction nearby, even though technically that is the fastest route normally.

It was even so detailed as to show that eastbound traffic was only "yellow", while westbound was "red".

I don't know if it updates the traffic more than once though. I've really only used it for short trips nearby, and turn it off once I'm back on familiar roads.
posted by Zarya at 12:31 AM on August 22, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the app suggestions, but I'm not terribly keen on possibly using up my data allowance and getting a shocker of a bill. And there may be a touch of gadget fever involved. Mmm, new toys.
posted by CKmtl at 8:26 PM on August 22, 2011

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