Measuring Progress

On a recent road trip with my family, I noticed something very interesting when looking at Google Maps.

The total trip distance from our home to our destination was 180 km, at the time of day that we left, it said the trip would take us 2 hours and 45 minutes.

About 20 minutes into the trip, we hit some traffic. This is when things got interesting.

Here's a sample screenshot from Google Maps so that you can visualize what I saw:

In this example above, you'll notice that the time remaining (13 minutes) is highlighted in a way that it serves as the primary indicator of progress. Just below the time remaining, in very small font, is distance (2.5 miles).

Back to my story...


We had hit traffic, but we were still moving.

When we hit traffic, Google Maps showed 2 hours and 25 minutes remaining in our trip.

We were inching forward in traffic for about 20 minutes.

After that, Google Maps still showed 2 hours and 25 minutes remaining in our trip.

This led me to ask, how can we be moving, yet somehow, standing still?

According to the time remaining on Google Maps, we had made no progress.

But that couldn't be true, could it?

We had kept moving, in the direction we were supposed to go.

The entire time, we did not stop moving.

So why didn't Google Maps tell us we were making progress?

Because we were looking at the wrong measure.

Google Maps defaults to time remaining as the primary indicator of trip progress. Distance remaining is visible, but in a much smaller font. You cannot change this setting so that the two are reversed.

Google Maps is making the assumption that you care more about time, than you do about distance.

Progress, like most things, can be measured in more than one way.

Question your default settings.

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