Taxi drivers' routes help crowd-source faster trips

Finer measurements make us smarter. And cab drivers, who know cities better than other drivers, offer lots of useful measurements.


Technology Review investigates: 

The researchers analyzed GPS data of 33,000 Beijing taxis in hopes of finding faster driving routes that would even be practical for people who don’t drive at taxi speed or swerve recklessly between lanes. “These factors are very subtle and difficult to incorporate into existing routing engines,” says Yu Zheng, a researcher at Microsoft Research Asia. Zheng 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.

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. “This is the reality of all the Web maps,” says Zheng.

Nokia is doing something along these lines too, collecting GPS data from people’s cell phones while they drive to provide traffic information about side roads. MIT’s CarTel project in Boston uses sensors on cars. And the Silicon Valley startup  Waze lets people share their real-time driving paths with their online social networks, to help others choose faster routes based on current conditions.

Adding Cabbie Know-How to Online Maps.