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Is Google Maps Based on Speed Limit?

Last Updated Apr 19, 2022
google maps

Many of us who drive, bike, or walk to a destination we’ve never been before will use the well-known map app, Google Maps. But sometimes it feels like the time it says it will take to get there seems unreasonable. How does Google calculate the estimated time to get there? Is it based on the speed limit?

Google Maps is based on the speed limit.  Google stores information about posted speed limits and uses it to estimate the total trip time and ETA. Google also uses the GPS on your smartphone to estimate what speed your vehicle is currently traveling at and correct the times accordingly.

Google uses local speed limits in a variety of different ways in its popular maps application.  Read on to learn how speed limits help Google Maps help you.

How Does Google Maps Calculate Travel Time?

The most obvious way Google Maps uses speed limits is to accurately calculate an estimate of how long it will take you to get to your destination.  

Google calculates your initial travel time based on many factors, including: 

  • Total distance 
  • Traffic patterns 
  • The posted speed limits

Now that you know that Google uses speed limits and traffic patterns to calculate travel time accurately, you may be wondering how it is that the app knows the speed limits in the first place.

How Does Google Maps Know the Speed Limit?

Google uses posted speed limits to calculate your travel time by accessing this data from their large database. This database information comes from a variety of locations.

Some places Google sources their information on speed limits include:

  • Local and public information. 
  • Waze, a crowdsourcing maps startup that Google purchased in 2013. Ever since the acquisition of Waze, Google has been rolling out options for users to post changes in speed limits due to accidents or construction. This allows Google Maps to recognize changes in speed limits and city commutes.
  • The Google Street View initiative. With this option, Google has collected millions of pictures of street signs that they compile and store to use in their map’s application algorithms.

All the speed limit data Google gathers from their various sources will be used to piece together the time it will take someone traveling the posted speed limit on their recommended route.

Will My Travel Time on Google Maps Change Based on My Speed?

In cases where you get stuck in unexpected traffic, or perhaps there is an accident or gridlock that slows you down, you may notice that the time it shows on your Google Maps app to reach your destination will change. So, does Google Maps’ travel time change based on your speed?

Google Maps will recalculate your estimated time of arrival based on your place in their route, and your speed. They do this all by getting your location from the GPS in your smartphone and running the information through their map software algorithms cyclically.

This feature on Google Maps also works when you are going faster than the posted speed limit, though it isn’t recommended to do this. They will update your travel time based on the faster speed. However, this increase in speed is negligible and it won’t matter for a couple of miles per hour over the speed limit.

Does Google Maps Tell You the Speed Limit?

When using Google Maps on your smartphone, the app uses speed limits to help you drive at a safe speed.  

When the app route is active while you are driving, Google Maps will post the speed limit in the corner of the app and will auto-update this limit based on your GPS location.

Google Maps uses the GPS chip in your smartphone to check your driving position with its database of speed limits to see what the speed limit is at your location. This is extraordinarily useful if you are driving in an unfamiliar area and don’t see a posted speed limit.

Does Google Maps Know Where There Are Speed Traps?

Speed traps are those nasty areas, typically where the speed limit has just dropped and cops like to sit to catch the unaware (or perhaps aware) speeders.

Google Maps utilizes speed limit changes to alert you of a potential speed trap.  If you enable that feature on the app, it will notify you through a notification and sound on your phone when the speed limit has dropped significantly.

In combination with their reporting system for police radar speed traps (a feature they borrowed from Waze), Google Maps uses local speed limits to help avoid you getting a hefty ticket fine.

Conclusion

Google has taken great lengths in time and financial investment to make sure to integrate speed limits into their maps app.  This has all been done to help build the most comprehensive, accurate, and up-to-date maps app.  

Through their use of millions of speed limits around the world, Google Maps has become the most accurate and most used maps app.

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