Microsoft's Online Maps to Steer Around Traffic

Calculations are designed to avoid side routes that might be even worse.

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Almost lost amid news about its bid for Yahoo, Microsoft today released a promising upgrade to its online mapping service. The Live Maps service added traffic monitoring with an extra zigzag—around bad traffic, that is.

The software giant says that new Clearflow technology will suggest better alternatives to traffic jams. Rerouting congestion itself isn't new to many high-end GPS devices, which get wireless traffic reports and suggest alternatives.

But Microsoft says it's using sophisticated calculations, based on several years of observing traffic, in charting the alternative routes. That might help drivers avoid taking side roads that themselves are more bottled up than the original. The feature is now available for 72 cities.