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Google Maps: Why does navigation still not show speed limits? Google could launch it at any time

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With the Google maps navigation all users can be guided to the most optimal way to reach the destination and display important additional information. A speedometer for current speed has been part of this for a long time, but unfortunately the logical counterpart is not available. Although Google has very good data quality on DA-CH, the speed limit cannot be displayed. But why?


large google maps logo

Google Maps navigation is constantly being expanded and new features are constantly being added, which some user groups may find very useful, but which are not necessarily part of the core navigation area. I’m thinking, for example, of the Google Assistant or the various compatible media players. Both are hardly needed on the smartphone thanks to other options, but there seems to be enough space on the surface.

Three years ago a speedometer was integrated into Google Maps navigation, which each user can display if they wish using the option in the settings. This shows the current speed based on the GPS location. In the car this is not absolutely necessary, on the bike it can be quite interesting and as a pedestrian you hardly need the one-digit number. It would be much more important to see the counterpart: How fast can I drive? This may also be relevant for cyclists in meeting areas.

If we talk about speed, the way to show the maximum speed allowed or the speed limit would not really be that far, but the Google Maps team has not been able to do it to date. At least that is the case in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. A user on vacation in Italy recently contacted me and informed me about the speed limits displayed, which is also the reason for this article.

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google maps speed limit

One might think that Google does not have reliable data on the maximum speed allowed and better not show users any information before saying something wrong. But that’s not the case, because Google has according to their own statements for many countries with high quality data: this is indicated on a website for Google Maps AI that is always kept up to date. For Germany, Austria, Switzerland and many other European countries, the quality of the data is considered to be very good and could be used without problems.

Google Maps uses the data in the background
But why does Google buy this data if it is not used? The purchase can be explained by the fact that the data is used in the background. Because without this data, route planning and navigation would not be able to estimate how quickly the user will get from A to B. Because Google Maps claims to be able to predict arrival time very accurately, you depend on this data. This is only possible if the algorithms know exactly how fast the user is likely to travel on the respective section of the route. Combined with traffic jam data and some tolerance margins for red and company lights, you get very accurate values.

Possible reasons for non-use
If the data is already available and used internally, it could also be displayed in the user interface. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with the legal situation, but it is possible that Google has only bought the right to use this data, but not to spread it, if this constellation is possible. If this is the case, the question remains why it works in other countries and why many navigation devices can display this information.

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The next excuse could be that the interface is too cluttered and the user is distracted from the most important information. Well, there are some arguments against it: the music player and the wizard. And also the display of the current speed by speedometer. Hopefully, the user can see for himself how fast the car is driving and does not need a second indication for this. Alternatively, of course, the maximum speed can simply be displayed as an additional number on the speedometer or it can be used solely as a warning. As soon as the driver pushes the accelerator pedal too hard, the speedometer could turn red and display the speed limit. There are certainly many possibilities, but that cannot be the reason.

Legal issues?
Another assumption may be the legal component. What if Google Maps says you can drive 50 on the highway, but you’re really only allowed 30? No one would dream of sending the appropriate fine to Google in Mountain View, but as a globally active company you have to protect yourself in many directions. That might play a small role in why this ad doesn’t exist yet.

One can reply that the navigation also wants to send the driver the wrong way on a one-way street, who doesn’t know? If you drive anyway, you should surrender your driver’s license instead of passing the responsibility to Google. Any navigation tool is just that: a tool. You should never trust it, but always take it as a hint or maybe a second check. Did I just see a sign from the 70s? If you’re unsure for a short time and then get confirmation from Google Maps, you can be a bit more certain, if of course not absolutely certain!

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And since this discussion about displaying speed limits on Google Maps has been going on for many years and almost nothing has happened until now, we probably have to live with the fact that this information is not available on the Google Maps platform for unknown reasons. That probably won’t change anytime soon, because it would be best to implement something like this with the big spring update, but that’s already been done.

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