Get Gas Prices, Route Distances, Traffic Cams, and More with Bing Maps

Last Updated Jun 9, 2010 12:08 AM EDT

Bing is starting to evolve into a mature search service that offers some real competition with -- and an alternative to -- Google Maps.

The latest improvements include a wide array of "map apps" (hey, apps worked for phones, right?) which enhance and customize your map in a number of impressive ways.

To get to these new apps, you'll need to enable the new version of Bing Maps, which you can do by clicking Try it now on the Bing Maps home page. Or just click the first link above.

The page looks similar to the "classic" Bing Maps, but you should see a Map Apps button at the bottom of the left pane. Click it, and you'll see all the apps -- currently about 30.

There's a lot of cool stuff here. Some of my favorites:

Distance Calculator. You can use the distance calculator to find both the straight line and as-driven distance between two points on the map.

Current Traffic. See all of the roads color coded for traffic, with construction and traffic advisories listed on the left side of the screen.

TrafficLand. See all the traffic cameras marked on the map. Click one to see a real-time view of road conditions.

Gas Prices. Just what the sign says -- see markers for all the nearby gas stations. Click a marker to see current prices.

Parking Finder. If you're in one of the 16 or so targeted cities, you can zoom in to find available parking lots, hours of operation, and rates. Sure beats driving in circles for an hour.

There are many other cool apps as well, like ones that identify the location of roadside sculptures, attractions, business, and rental properties.

You can enable multiple apps at once and control them by clicking My Legend at the bottom left corner of the screen. And if you decide you don't care for the new Bing Maps page, you can revert to the "classic" mode any time -- click Back to classic in the bottom right corner of the map.