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No need for an app with Sig Alert's maps

Sang Tang

As TUAW's own Steve Sande noted, one of the neat features of Safari on iPhone OS 3.0 is its ability to leverage the HTML 5 geolocation API. One of the more prominent web-based services to use geolocation is Google's Latitude, which allows one to see where their friends are located and what they're currently up to. Whereas Latitude provides you updates on where your friends are and what they're up to, provides you updates on what's holding up all the traffic at your current location (for California and Arizona only) as well as when you should be expecting it to loosen up.

During a recent weekend afternoon drive from Los Angeles to San Diego, I was stuck in heavy traffic -- unusually heavy considering the day and time I was traveling. Sure, I could have relied on dedicated apps, such as iPhone's built-in map app or MapQuest 4 Mobile, to see exactly where the traffic would loosen up, but I wanted to know exactly what was causing the traffic. So I turned to instead.

For many California and Arizona natives, the term "Sig Alert" provides not-so-good associations. And for good reason: a Sig Alert is "any unplanned event that causes the closing of one lane of traffic for 30 minutes or more." So, when the traffic reporter says that "there's a Sig Alert at fill in your favorite freeway" on the radio, you're most likely in for a waiting game.

When visiting using your iPhone or iPod touch, you are automatically redirected to the service's iPhone formatted site. The site's map view shows a color coded schema -- with green, orange and red hues to indicate traffic conditions -- similar to that on many dedicated map apps.

But the site offers a compelling feature that many of its app store brethren either lack or provide inconsistent results for: location-aware freeway speed and traffic advisory information. In other words, can tell you the speed that cars that pass certain exits are traveling at, as well as what is causing slowdowns in a given area -- such as construction work, narrowing lanes, and traffic accidents.

So while isn't a full-fledged app, its functionality rivals and bests offerings by many of its counterparts in the app store.

Need to find out if there's an accident on the freeway? There's a map for that.

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