At the end of this recent New York Times piece, (the place where one often finds the most interesting material), Google’s chief economist Hal Varian notes that Google traffic tends to surge, perhaps not surprisingly, during bad weather and strikes. “Bad weather is good for Google,” he said, “as long as it is not too bad.”
The corollary of this is that road traffic tends to dip during things like bad weather and strikes (and it would be interesting to compare the drop-off in one to the gain in another). So basically, the more people on Google, the more people who aren’t on the road, one traffic supplanted by another. But in a discussion last week with the good folks at Dash, the only “internet-connected” GPS and real-time traffic device, one of its executives pointed out to me that they tend to see increased usage of the device during peak driving hours, which is as you might expect (and I’d love to see the visualization data of all those Dash users, sort of a massive version of “cabspotting”). But as the device also features Internet searching (via Yahoo), the sort of dynamic described by Varian might not hold: Just because there’s a lot of people searching the net doesn’t mean they’re all at home. They might be on the road.
One interesting potential usage, down the road, for Dash’s device is that a company (say, BestBuy) might want to know not only how often drivers were searching for BestBuy stores, but then how often the searcher had physically driven to the parking lot of BestBuy. This is the road traffic version of the “click-through”: The Drive-To.