Thousands of holidaymakers are set to battle mass traffic as they return from their Easter breaks – but relief from gridlock could be just a swipe of the finger away.

Heavy congestion brought parts of Auckland’s southern motorway, and SH1 both north and south of the City of Sails to a standstill as holidaymakers who had delayed their travel due to Cyclone Cook left town.

And those keen on avoiding the worst of the gridlock tomorrow around the country as the long weekend ends could do well to log into the Google map app.

Overseas research has shown the app has already proved to be a Godsend for Aucklanders, cutting driving times on average by 8 per cent and public transport times by 13 per cent.

And the data crunched by AlphaBeta, a Sydney and Singapore-based economic strategy consultancy, showed Google Maps supported more than $600 million in consumer benefits for New Zealand in 2015.

The free app is worth $170 a year to New Zealanders through time savings to find local businesses, landmarks, travelling from A to B and planning overseas holidays, according to AlphaBeta.

Spokesman Konstantin Matthies said using techniques similar to New Zealand’s Automobile Association “we have found that using Maps to plan and navigate routes has cutting driving times in Auckland by 8 per cent, or around 4 hours per years for every driver.

We’ve also run the analysis for public transport users, finding they save around 2 hours a year via Maps

Konstantin Matthies, AlphaBeta

AlphaBeta analysed more than 17,000 simulated driving and public transport trips in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington, as well as survey data from New Zealanders using Google Maps to plan or navigate routes.

Driving times reduced by 8 per cent in Auckland and 6 per cent in Wellington and Christchurch. Public transport users reduced their travelling times in Auckland by 13 per cent, Christchurch by 9 per cent and Wellington by 12 per cent.

Another benefit of the Map app, said AlphaBeta, is reduced environmental impact. Using average vehicle speeds and occupancy rates, it estimates savings of between 14,500 and 19,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is the equivalent of between 3000 and 4000 fewer cars on the road.

The AA is using data collected from the Google Map app at more than 50 busy routes across Auckland to better understand the causes and effects of congestion.

There are plans for monthly reports on congestion trends, a possible television slot, advice for planned events like the Adele concerts and holiday traffic and immediate responses for unplanned events like car crashes and road closures.

“We think this will lead to a more informed debate. That means keeping public expectations real and cutting out political promises of ‘silver bullet’ solutions,” said AA infrastructure principal adviser Barney Irvine.

Auckland’s rapid population growth has led to a quarter of the city’s busiest roads, including Lake Rd, Lincoln Rd and routes to the airport, being congested at peak hours, up from 18 per cent in just three years. Auckland Transport said one in three main roads will be congested by 2020.

“The idea is to help de-mystify congestion for the public. By focusing on the bigger picture and talking about what people can do to minimise some of congestion’s impacts, we can help to reduce some of the stress,” said Irvine.

The AA began collecting the Google data in about October last year. It is also collecting data in Wellington and Christchurch.

Google maps – how it works

• Web mapping service offering satellite imagery, street maps, 360 degree panoramic views
• Was launched in 2005
• Features real-time traffic conditions
• Route planning covers travel by car, bicycle, public transport and foot
• Best possible routes are offered up based on traffic jams and avoiding delays
• Traffic alerts are also issued, including how long you could be stuck in congestion
• A development in 2007 saw real-time traffic data being used, including a display of the speed of vehicles on particular roads
• In 2012, Google revealed more than 7000 employees and contractors were involved in the mapping process
• In August 2013 was voted by smartphone owners as the world’s most popular app