Yahoo Builds Traffic Updates into Maps

The company introduces a local service that displays road conditions, traffic speeds and accidents within online maps.

Yahoo Inc. wants to make driving easier by merging traffic information into its online maps and driving directions.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., company announced late Wednesday that it has added information about accidents and road conditions into its online maps for 70 metropolitan areas. For 20 of those local areas, it also is providing real-time data about the average driving speed of traffic.

"Traffic is an exciting area because its so much a part of peoples lives," said Paul Levine, general manager of local services at Yahoo. "Like it or not, the majority of Americans get in their cars and want to know what routes to take or what the traffic conditions are."

Along with Yahoo Maps, the traffic reports also are available from Yahoo Local and Yahoo Search. Yahoos local-search service returns maps with business listings and now will overlay traffic information on the map.

Yahoo Search will return a link to a map with traffic reports when users enter relevant queries, such as "Atlanta traffic," the company announced.

Yahoo is pulling information from public and private agencies using such instruments as road sensors, traffic cameras, police scanners and traffic helicopters to glean traffic and road conditions.

Levine said Yahoo is drawing an aggregated feed of that data and using its technology to repurpose the data for online maps.

The maps pinpoint traffic problems such as accidents in icons, which users can scroll over to view details of the road conditions. In the areas where speed information is available, the maps show color-coded roads that signify various ranges of average speeds.

By including traffic speed information for 20 metro areas, Yahoo is covering about half of the U.S. population, Levine said.

The local traffic information fits into Yahoos local strategy by bolstering the variety of geographic-specific information it provides to users, Levine said.

/zimages/5/28571.gifRead more here about Yahoos earlier introduction of local mapping features.

It also follows a Yahoo Local feature added last week for businesses. Yahoo began letting local businesses directly add themselves to its business listings.

A business can submit its contact information, a Web site link and basic information about its products and services for free. By paying $9.95, businesses also can opt for an enhanced listing with photos, promotional offers and a fuller business description.

The submitted listings build on top of Yahoos deals with business directories such as Inc. and its own Web crawling, a spokeswoman said.

Yahoo, Google Inc. and Ask Jeeves Inc. all have added local-search services to their sites this year. Yahoos effort to get businesses to submit listings will help it increase its local content, especially concerning small business, said Neal Polachek, senior vice president at market-research company The Kelsey Group.

/zimages/5/28571.gifWhat about Yellow Pages publishers? Click here to read more about their local-search moves.

"This is a good way [for Yahoo] to get some more content and benefit users, and now they have information on more businesses that they can begin to have a relationship with," Polachek said.

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