Sunday, March 18, 2012

Google Maps May Be Adding Speed Limits


The above image was posted on Reddit in September

The above image was posted on Reddit in September

Since the advent of the smartphone, the GPS market has been fighting an uphill battle to prove to consumers that smartphones really can’t do everything. While standalone GPS devices are a bit more expensive, there are still some things that they do better than the almighty smartphone including signal reliability and better directions. But, it looks like that list might be getting shorter by the day.

Last month, several Google Maps users reported seeing speed limit indicators in the bottom corner of the Google Maps app. Waze, which Google purchased fairly recently, already had this capability so it’s not a huge surprise, but it is definitely worthy of note.

According to The Verge, these indicators are patchy, at best, and many users in both the US and the UK have been reporting and posting screen shots since mid September. At the moment, the speed limit indicators are not showing up for everyone all of the time, which indicates that it might simply be a beta testing of certain areas. Google, of course, has remained mostly silent on the feature, simply stating that it is always looking to improve its offerings.

At the moment, there doesn’t really seem to be any rhyme or reason to who does or does not get the update, and there also does not seem to be a way to shut it off. However, if Google does actually roll out this update, it’s only natural to expect that more complex features like current speed, will follow.

While it might seem like a small thing, it leads me to wonder if there are going to be any long term impacts on automotive GPS devices. Although I am sure most people did not purchase a GPS device simply for the speed limit indicators (although I admit that mine is something of a lifesaver), it is definitely a feature that is immensely convenient and, more importantly, something phones didn’t really offer.

To put things in perspective, it was just last year that we wrote an article with 8 GPS Features Smartphones Can’t Match, and out of those, four of them are now readily available, including the speed limit indicators. It seems the gap between smartphones and GPS is closing. This doesn’t necessarily mean the end for automotive GPS, but it’s definitely a trend that GPS companies, who are increasingly focusing more on fitness trackers and other sectors, have begun to take note.

So what do you think? Will this will have any effect on standalone GPS devices? Have you seen the speed limit indicator on your Google Maps app? Discuss in the comments below!

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