GOOGLE has launched its live traffic coverage service in SA, an addition to Google Maps which allows users to check the current traffic conditions in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Pretoria.

Google Maps faces competition from Apple, which recently launched its mapping system. Previously, Apple devices came pre-loaded with the Google Maps feature, providing Google with a substantial number of people from which to "crowd-source".

The nifty new Google traffic system allows users to choose alternative routes to their destinations and provides an estimated time of arrival.

Google live traffic works by analysing data sent to its system by GPS-enabled phones which have the Google Maps application installed. The phone sends anonymous data to Google describing how fast or slowly it is moving.

Data collected from phones travelling across the cities at any given time is used to provide Google with information about live traffic conditions.

This phenomenon is known as crowd-sourcing.

Apple's map service, to launch with the iOS6 operating system for iPhones and iPads later this year, will have three-dimensional images of cities called "Flyover", real-time traffic updates and turn-by-turn navigation.

Google has turn-by-turn navigation which can be used for Android devices, but has not made it available in Apple devices.

It is not clear when Google's live traffic coverage will be extended to other parts of SA. The service was extended to six countries yesterday, including Belarus, Mexico and SA, and is now available in 25 countries around the globe.

Users can check traffic conditions by visiting the Google Maps website and clicking on the traffic widget.

Traffic information is also available on Google Maps for cellphone devices and so is Google Maps Navigation.

Mathias Ernst, software engineer for Google Maps, said yesterday: "If the roads you are travelling on do not yet show traffic information, don't despair.

"You can help your fellow drivers and improve traffic data by using Google Navigation or Google Maps for mobile while travelling."

With Reuters