Microsoft Improving Driving Directions With Help From Cab Drivers

This is a guest post by Craig. If you would like to contribute too, please contact me.

Green TAXI - CAB

It’s happened to all of us. We make plans to travel somewhere, and first input our destination in Either Google Maps, MapQuest, or Bing Maps to find driving directions, only to later find out that there is a much easier way you could have went.

If you don’t believe me, try it yourself. Open up Google maps and bring up the directions to a place that you frequently travel in town. A lot of times, you will come to find that the direction service gives you a route that works, but you know of a quicker or much easier route to take just from traveling it so much.

It is this concept that has prompted Microsoft to enlist 33,000 cab drivers in the city of Beijing, China to strap GPS devices to their cars and let them collect data.

The idea seems pretty brilliant, considering if anyone knows how to navigate through a city quickly and efficiently, its cab drivers. Cab drivers always know the best shortcuts, when and where to avoid traffic jams, as well as many other time and stress-saving techniques.

A similar study has been done at the University of California, where subjects cell phones were equipped with applications that reported back data about traffic jams and known trouble areas.

At MIT, their CarTel program utilizes a wealth of in-car sensors that send traffic information back to their servers, where the data is compiled. The hope with the CarTel program is for the program to evolve to the point that the cars can provide real-time information to each other, rather than relying on aggregated results from the past, coming off a remote server.

This Bing maps project is a little different though. Never has there been interactive map information that virtually comes straight from the minds of drivers. With maps not being perfect, this project will also help with making them more perfect.

There has been plenty of times where I have been using Google Maps directions, or even my own GPS navigation unit in my car, and came to a road that I was supposed to turn left on, but can only legally turn right on. With this data, discrepancies can be corrected based on the info coming from the cab drivers.

Studies indicate that cab drivers cut approximately 16% off of a normal car trip. This translates to approximately 5 minutes less per half hour of travel. That 16% can really start to add up when trying to navigate larger cities.

Kudos to Microsoft for this great idea that will undoubtedly make travel a little less of a headache.

Guest post: Craig is a freelance writer for the Repair Services Network

[image courtesy of José Luis Ruiz]

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