Google is always adding something new to Maps, but not everyone gets the new stuff at the same time. Right now, it looks like Google has added a nifty travel time graph to directions so you'll know how much traffic there will be. This appears to be one of the rare instances where a new feature was quietly rolled out to all users in the space of a few weeks.
You'll see the new graph at the top of the directions when you select a destination in Maps. It has a very familiar look—almost identical to the graph for businesses that tells you how busy they are. The travel time graph has bars for half an hour before, and a few hours after the current time. There's also a dotted line just above the bars with a time indicated. This gives you some frame of reference for how close the bars might be. A bit more data on the Y-axis would be nice, though.
You can use this new chart to gauge your departure time. If the current traffic is higher or lower than usual, you can wait a bit or rush out the door in response. As with all things Google, this feature might be limited by region. It seems to be consistently available in the US and UK at least.
- and Nathan