UK Traffic Checker now in the Android Market

Update: (April 2011) The app is no longer available

UK Traffic Checker for AndroidMy last post was a bit of a clue, but I still thought it was worth a mini-announcement that “UK Traffic Checker” is now available in the Android Market.

I wrote about the basic idea for the app when I first hacked it together, but to summarise it’s a mobile app that checks for roadworks or other traffic incidents on UK roads for a specific journey. Tell it two places, it will work out the route between them, and check that route for known problems.

And if you give it your schedule, it can automatically check traffic for you – with support for both one-off and repeating journeys. So if you have a regular commute, you can give it the details and it will check your route to work for you in the morning while you get ready, without you needing to remember to ask.

‘UK Traffic Checker’ in the Market

UK traffic for Android - a traffic report mapBetween starting a project for a new client at work last month, and getting distracted (like the goldfish that I am!) with other bits and pieces, I kinda forgot about this code after starting it last month.

But a bunch of people were kind enough to give the app a test, and gave me a lot of useful feedback. So last night, after a well-timed prod from Ben, I had a go at writing a “release version” that reflected the feedback I got.

It’s worth mentioning some of it here, because (although I said at the time that my last effort was focused on getting the engine working, rather than the UI) there were some good points raised that I was very grateful for:

Less typing

The original app relied on users typing in addresses. That still plays a part, but you can now check routes without typing a single letter. For example, there is a shortcut key for “Home” – most of my routes go to or from my home, so instead of typing my address every time, I can just tap the “house” icon. There is a button to reverse the ‘from’ and ‘to’ locations, so you can plan a return journey without having to copy and paste. And there are a bunch of shortcuts to copy scheduled journeys or previously checked journeys, so you can check again without needing to enter all the details in again.

UK traffic for Android - a traffic report mapUses location

For journeys from where you are, to somewhere else, you used to have to type in your address. Now you can just tap the location button, and the app will use your current location.

Fewer steps

The original app had a simple front-screen, with buttons to take you to each of the different functions. That makes sense from a desktop perspective, but for a mobile app, it’s another barrier between the user and what they want to achieve. So I moved the most common function (checking traffic now – the action that a user is most likely to be in a hurry to perform) to the front screen. As soon as you launch the app, you can start checking traffic, without having to navigate to a different screen.

No more auto-complete text box

The auto-complete text box seemed to piss a few people off. Including me. It was way too big, took up far too much of the screen, kept popping up when you didn’t actually want it, and pretty much ignored what you were typing in. So I did away with it, and now a tap on the history button pops up a scrolling list of previous locations to choose from.

Scrolling text boxes bad, multiline better

A small point, but still an important one, I feel. The original app had single-line text boxes – if you typed an address that was too long for them, it would scroll horizontally. This meant you often couldn’t see the whole address at once. Now, the text box wraps, and reflows the UI – moving everything else down as necessary. I think it works better this way.

After all of these, and a few more more subtle changes that were suggested, the app was finally ready to share.

If you have an Android phone and are based in the UK, please do give it a try (Android link only – or just search the Market for ‘dale lane’).

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38 Responses to “UK Traffic Checker now in the Android Market”

  1. Anton Piatek says:

    Have just installed it, will let you know how it goes when I finally find some traffic 🙂

  2. dale says:

    Thanks very much, Anton!

  3. John C says:

    Much better Dale – now has a permanent place on my HTC Desire.

  4. Mike says:

    Just installed and had a quick test on the route I’d just driven. Seems to work pretty well! Have scheduled my daily commute so we’ll see what happens at home time tonight…

    Does it prompt at all if it finds no problems for a scheduled journey? So you at least know it’s working?

  5. dale says:

    John – Thanks very much – much appreciated

    Mike – Thanks! At the moment, it does notify with “0 problems found” – mainly, as you suggest, because I didn’t entirely trust that I’d got the AlarmManager stuff working. I have been wondering whether, once I trust the code a bit more, whether I should remove that, though. Or perhaps make it optional.

  6. Mike says:

    I’d say leave the ‘0 problems found’ as an option. Personally I’d like to be prompted all the time until I’d been using it for a few weeks or so and was confident that it was working as expected. Then I’d turn the option off.

    Also, I didn’t say it in my first comment, but thanks for this app! I found your blog a week or so ago when trying to find something better than what was available at the time, and this seems to take the biscuit. 🙂

  7. dale says:

    Thanks – that’s very kind. (Please do – if you’ve not already – submit a rating to the Market… it’d be nice to get a few ratings to help get it noticed)

  8. Mike says:

    Consider it done (as in – I’ve actually done it).

    One more thing… I’m curious as to how it decides what information is relevant to be displayed. As in, my commute usually takes me down the A34 and M40 as it tends to be the quickest, but there are other possible (and shorter) routes I can take if those are blocked up. My quick test this morning showed delays on both of these roads, but does it only look at this one (assuming Google suggested) route, or would it also show delays for alternate routes? Maybe roads within a certain radius of the main route or something.

  9. Mike says:

    Good news! My first scheduled update just rolled around and… No problem detected. 🙂

    Possible bug report: As soon as I unlocked the phone it went straight to the report screen, but backing out of it didn’t clear the notification. I then clicked the notification manually and backed out once more and that cleared it.

    Do you have somewhere set up for bug reports? 🙂

  10. Dave Nice says:

    Awesome – looking forward to upgrading so I can give this a try (a whole new phone just for one app – perhaps that’s overkill…!)

    Mike’s idea’s a cracking one. My TomTom lets me plan alternative routes if there’s, say, a roadblock 1 mile ahead. Routing around traffic is a bit trickier though, I always have to do that manually.

    If you could detect traffic, guesstimate delay time, and suggest a quicker alternative route… AWESOME! Wake up and have the GPS automatically get you to work as quick as possible.

    Only thing is that I think between traffic delay time inaccuracies and route timing inaccuracies, it could be tricky to pull off well.


  11. dale says:


    I use CloudMade for routing (because when I wrote this, Google didn’t have a web service for routing – they now do, so I may port the code to use Google instead). They return me a KML file, which gives me a reasonably granular series of short paths that makes up the route.

    I look for problems that lie on or near one of those short paths.

    Supporting a choice from multiple routes is something I’d like to add – it’s on the to-do list (although I am easily distracted 🙂 )

    As for bug reports, email to dale.lane at gmail is fine. Otherwise, getSatisfaction is good if you use that.

    Thanks for the pointer about clearing notifications – I’ll take a look at that.

  12. dale says:

    Dave – Thanks for the comment. Surely my app is clearly enough of a reason to buy a new phone 😉

  13. Mike says:

    Thanks for the feedback to my, um, feedback. Curiously this morning’s notification didn’t go straight to the problems screen when I unlocked the phone, and the notification cleared properly when I went there manually, so maybe it was something I did yesterday. I’ll keep an eye out for it though.

    The way you’re filtering the reports right now is the way I was hoping it would work. EG. ‘on or near’ my usual route should hopefully show reports for the A34 (normal route) and the close-by A44 alternative. I think that works better than defining entire routes manually, unless one of them is vastly different to the norm. K.I.S.S. and all that. 🙂

    Anyway, glad that CloudMade found your app worthy enough to grant you more than their usual allowance of queries! It’s certainly a must-have app for me.

  14. Chris says:

    This app looks interesting and I may well give it a whirl, but I’m curious, how is this app better than the traffic layer in the Google Maps app?

  15. dale says:


    Thanks for the comment.

    I’m not sure I’d describe this as better or worse than Google Maps – for me, they have different uses in mind.

    I wrote before in more detail about the idea behind the app, and that post might give you some answer. But for example:

    Automated – I generally didn’t enter a journey into Google Maps while getting ready in the morning. But I’m finding that I like being able to agree a journey beforehand, and schedule it to be checked while I’m getting breakfast, or doing my teeth, without me needing to remember to do it.
    (This is particularly useful for regular journeys, such as commuting to/from work, where it means I can schedule it once, then not both again for every day.)

    Quick – If there are no incidents, I don’t even have to launch the app. The message in the notifications bar at the top says “0 incidents found…” so a quick glance at that tells me everything is okay.

    Relevant – Something like Google Maps will download and display all traffic info. I wanted something that would cut down on all of that, and only show me stuff for the route I am going to travel on

    Also, I *think* that the coverage of my app is a little better – the roadworks feeds from the Highways Agency and BBC Travel News include traffic incidents on minor roads which aren’t covered by Google Maps (which has the average speed for motorways and major A roads).

    This is all getting a little sales-pitchy, so I’ll leave it there. 🙂

    Kind regards, D

  16. Chris says:

    Thats cool, I had used Google Maps earlier this month for traffic, so from your earlier post I wasn’t sure if you’d tried that solution or not.

    If I may make a suggestion to feed into your RTM stuff; could you have this be automated from RTM/Outlook? Essentially if I fill in the ‘Location’ field on an Outlook appointment with an address for a meeting, then having this propagated to the app and notify me of incidents at ‘expected travel time + 30mins before meeting start time’, that would top this off brilliantly.

    I guess you’d need an Android service polling for GCal changes (unless the existing calendar app sends notification events you can hook?). I’d then sync Outlook with GCal (once google finally gets Google calendar sync working with Outlook 2010, but thats another story).

    From my limited testing with the app I’ve also found a lot of ‘Cannot find the road between points’ errors, for routes that Google Maps finds quite happily, but thats likely a CloudMade issue not yours.

    Ultimately its a good app though, it’ll be staying on my Desire.

  17. Tim says:

    Dale, first of all a big thanks.
    This is the 3rd traffic app I have tried and by far the best for me, does exactly what I want!

    One small issue (HTC Desire) – I notice that if I click the ‘current location’ button with GPS disabled I get a force close. Other apps prompt me to change the settings if I do something similar.

    That aside this app is now a permanent fixture for me!

  18. dale says:

    Tim – Thanks for the kind comment. And for the headsup on the bug – I’ll fix that one. Kind regards, D

  19. nunn says:

    Sounds great… but I don’t see it in the Android Marketplace? (searched for “UK Traffic Checker” and also tried “Dale Lane”). I only have v1.5, is that why?

  20. dale says:

    nunn – Yes, sorry – it’s 1.6 and greater, only. Sorry.

  21. […] Traffic Checker – A very cool app written by Dale Lane that check the route between 2 places for traffic […]

  22. Botley says:

    Dale, just installed this app and read the reviews. It looks cracking and the scheduled route checker is a fantastic feature. In the help you ask for sources for traffic info. Up until now I’ve used if it helps. This is not the greatest site but it does let me view live webcams so I can check the known trouble spots before I set out. I notice they make camera images and planned disruption available to 3rd parties. Whilst your app is great and nice and clean and simple how about maybe alerting to future road works if possible, rather than just getting the alert on the day. Great app though, will leave market place feedback.

  23. dale says:

    Botley – Thanks very much for the kind comments. I’ll think about what else I could do with the app – Highways Agency data is a good idea

  24. […] already had some Android code which takes a start and end named place from the user, converts them into lat/lons and calls a web service so this was a useful starter. That code opened a dialog to display incidents from BBC Travel News […]

  25. Alan Culpitt says:

    Thanks, just downloaded the app and will test it out with a 300mile journey in the snow. Wish me luck!

  26. dale says:

    Alan – Hope your journey went well!

  27. Jamie says:

    Looks like a really good app. Quite small but would be nice to allow move to sd. Thanks

  28. Peter says:

    Dale, like the app and have been using it. One question or bug – I ran a request this morning for the route Heathrow Airport to Swindon, ie heading west along the M4. The app came back with a traffic delay of heavy traffic eastbound on the M4 at Slough.

    Now – is that supposed to mean westbound, or does it pick up delays in both directions? I guess the crucial thing is it does pick up the correct westbound delay if there are any. I’ve seen this a few times because my commute is against the main flow of traffic, and was curious as to the cause.

    Thanks for the app!


  29. dale says:

    Hi Peter

    Thanks for the kind comments

    The version currently in the Market does show problem reports in both directions. I could make some excuse about delays in one direction often causing problems in the other direction, but to be honest – it was written that way because it was easier than matching route direction against problem reports!

    Kind regards


  30. […] now I just need to find replacements for the O2 apps I use the most. I’m planning to try out Dale’s traffic checker at some point, but TomTom now make their live traffic service available free on the web, which […]

  31. Neil says:

    Just downloaded the app. I love the idea of it because I keep forgetting to check the RAC app. Having problems with Desire HD. When I press Check Traffic Now, I get “Failed to download traffic report: Content is not allowed in Prolog”. Any ideas?

  32. dale says:

    Neil – Sorry, no idea. I’ll look into it.

    Kind regards, D

  33. Botley says:

    what’s happened to UK Traffic Checker? It stopped delivering reports a couple of weeks ago. I was going to uninstall and re-install but couldn’t see iit on the android market anymore. I loved it and it was so useful being a daily M4 commuter.
    Is it still running, or is it down. If so will it ever come back as I really used it.

  34. dale says:

    Sorry about that – I pulled it while I figure out what was wrong with it.

    I’m insanely busy at work at the moment, so it’ll likely be down for a couple of weeks at least. But, I’m hoping to combine taking it down with adding in some of the NTCC stuff that I did at a hackday last year, so when it does come back, it’ll hopefully be better than before. (as well as fixed!)

    Sorry for vanishing in the meantime, though.

  35. dale says:

    From the BBC (where the app got it’s traffic reports):

    From 6 March 2011, we will be discontinuing access to all traffic and travel feeds released via the project, this will include both tpegML and RSS formats. We apologise for any inconvenience

    This is why the app stopped working. Until I get an alternate source of data working, the app is no longer functional. Sorry

  36. […] Until this month, I had an Android app which displayed road traffic problems on a given route. […]

  37. Andy says:

    Sad you have had to drop app, still seems to work at present on my Desire- wierd!

    Have you had a look at the feeds direct from Highways agency – and specifically the nationwide one – – any chance they could be a new feed for the app?

  38. dale says:

    There are some feeds for motorways and trunk roads in England, but they aren’t anywhere near as complete as what the BBC provided, and don’t cover Wales or Scotland. 🙁