Most mapping services out there have some type of real-time traffic system which helps alert users to the locations where traffic might be backed up. Microsoft up until now, hasn’t had such a feature with their Live Maps. As of yesterday not only do they have a real-time traffic feature for Live Maps, theirs is arguably better than any of the others thanks to a technology called Clearflow.

Clearflow has been a project in the works for over five years now and was developed at Microsoft’s Research laboratories. The New York Times describes it as “an ambitious attempt to apply machine-learning techniques to the problem of traffic congestion.  The system is intended to reflect the complex traffic interactions that occur as traffic backs up on the freeways and spills over onto city streets.” The nicest feature that is now available with Live Maps thanks to Clearflow, is that drivers can receive alternative routes based upon four years worth of real-world traffic data.

microsoft traffic conditions

At the moment, this technology is available in 72 cities. They cover most major cities in the United States, and other cities will be added in the future. Traffic is predicted based upon several things like time of day, weather, sporting events that may be going on, and other factors. Not only do they look at major street and interstates, they also look at traffic conditions on side streets to help determine the best route. Clearflow takes into consideration so many more factors than other traffic services which should help users get to where they need to go with the least amount of congestion as possible.

What we’d like to see is the Clearflow technology integrated into Microsoft’s Live Search Mobile so that people can use their mobile phones to get the most up-to-date conditions. It would also be helpful if when you were getting directions, you could enter in the date and time you’d be making your trip.

Aside from the new traffic avoidance feature, Live Maps has launched a new version with all kinds of improvements and features like:

  • Export your collection to your Nav/GPS device
  • Improved “version 2″ cities (Las Vegas, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix)
  • 1-click directions improvements
  • MapCruncher integration (add layers of information)
  • “GeoWeb” tagging and collections enhancements
  • and more…