It’s long overdue: a speed limit indicator on Google Maps. It appears to be showing up on some users’ phones, according to multiple user reports, but not everywhere. So far it appears to be just the posted speed limit, not the car’s actual speed, without an indication if you’re driving over the limit. Posted and actual are obviously useful together, especially since the GPS-derived is typically spot-on. The car’s speedometer often overstates your actual speed by a couple miles per hour.
Google has had little to say initially beyond the usual upbeat response that Google continually seeks out new features that might be useful, and some appear if user feedback is positive. It’s also not certain if Android phones would get the feature before Apple iOS (as on the artist rendition in the main image). If your car supports Android Auto, then the information on the car’s LCD should show this as well, once Google is good and ready.
If you’re a person who drives close to the limit, meaning 75 in a 65 zone — where “limit” means the upper boundary for driving, beyond which you’re becoming visible to the authorities — you want to know your exact speed. Automakers may show the speedometer at 65 mph when you’re actually doing 62-64 mph just in case you have a tire with a circumference slightly larger than the original rubber (and each revolution carries the car slightly farther, meaning higher speed).
Even better is when your device shows the posted speed limit, your exact speed, and a warning when you reach or exceed the limit. Waze does that already, and it’s one of the many reasons this app has become so popular. So popular, in fact, that Google spent a reported $1.3 billion to acquire Waze.
There’s room for a smarter excessive-speed warning. It’s little help to have the speed limit sign or your actual speed outlined in red the moment when you accelerate to 66 in a 65 zone. You may want to know that when you hit 76 in a 65 zone. That’s certainly do-able, especially if you can have multiple triggers: say, 6 mph over for speeds under 50 mph, 8 mph for 50-60, and 11 mph over for 50 and above. A Waze-like app could — theoretically here — temporarily reduce the posted-versus-actual margin if others report a significant police presence nearby. Public safety officials say speeding tickets only improve safety. Drivers, and an increasing number of newspapers, along with some legislators, recognize that it’s really about revenue.
Many, not all, car navigation systems now show the posted speed limit, or at least what the limit was when the data was burned into a DVD or SD card. Most owners don’t buy update discs or memory cards when the new data costs $200. Some may show your car’s speed as well (on the navigation map), although it’s synced to the car speedometer, which typically runs off tire rotation and is subject to inaccuracies. And some highlight the speed limit sign on the dashboard map when you exceed the posted speed.
Some cars with head-up displays (HUDs) are showing speed limits, too. BMW (image above) shows posted speed (the red 120 kph circle, or 75 mph), the car’s actual speed (the white 106), and the speed setting for cruise control or adaptive cruise control (the green 120).
It took years for automakers to start putting speed limit information into on-board navigation systems. Automakers argued they might try to hold the automakers responsible if the speed limit was reduced, the driver relied on old map information, and got a ticket. Meanwhile, the Garmins and TomToms included speed limit info at far lower prices for their devices than for on-board navigation.
On-board navigation, although still wildly expensive (at least in buyers’ minds), has one trick that smartphones can’t match yet: The same windshield camera that handles lane departure warning and forward collision warning can also read roadside signs, including speed limit signs — especially those that have changed for construction zones, and possibly even for short-term events such a severe weather.