China: Nobody knows how to get around a city like a taxi driver. Inspired by them, researchers from Microsoft are now using cabbies’ knowledge to create faster driving paths for online maps. For now, it works only for Beijing, but a similar approach could work in many dense cities. The researchers analysed GPS data of 33,000 Beijing taxis to try to find faster driving routes that would be practical for people who don’t drive at taxi speed or swerve recklessly between lanes.
Current drive-time predictions on online maps rely on the length of road and the posted speed limit. Some services will inform drivers that the route takes longer in traffic, but that doesn’t help someone who wants to know the fastest route from point A to point B, even if that route might look longer because it takes unexpected side streets.
A handful of other projects have popped up to solve these sorts of problems. A collaboration between University of California and Nokia researchers collects GPS data from people’s cell phones while they drive to provide traffic information about side roads. MIT’s CarTel project in the Boston area incorporates data from drivers’ phones and from probes on taxis. And a startup in Silicon Valley called Waze lets people share their real-time driving paths with their online social networks, to help others choose faster routes based on current conditions.
According to the Microsoft researchers, the routes suggested by T-Drive are faster than 60 percent of the routes suggested by Google and Bing maps (which provide essentially the same driving time estimates as each other).
Yu Zheng, a researcher at Microsoft Research Asia, is an author on the paper describing the approach, called T-Drive, which is being presented this week at the International Conference on Advances in Geographic Information Systems, in San Jose, California. Overall, T-Drive can save about 16 percent off the time of a trip, the researchers say, which translates into about 5 minutes for every 30 minutes of driving.
The T-Drive doesn’t yet include real-time data such as accidents or new construction projects. This is something that the researchers say they can include in future versions of their system. Waze’s Shabtai also points out that a diversity of paths from ordinary drivers might be able to do a similar job. Either way you go, car trips might get shorter.
Source: Technology Review