Human Friendly Driving Directions From Google?

I need landmarks when I get driving directions. I get lost without them.

The last time I took a long trip by car, I used a couple of different online mapping programs to get me to where I was going. Or at least most of the way there. The directions worked fine the first 320 miles, until I had less than a couple of miles to go.

Then I drove around for 40 minutes, in the middle of Massachusetts, trying to find a hotel that I had made reservations at.

I wish that there was something better.

Yep, I didn’t ask directions. I should have. A couple of good landmarks would have helped.

Google may have something, in the not too distant future, that can help someone like me.

A new patent application from the folks at Google builds upon the previous patent applications that they have filed involving Google Maps. This one uses such things as Satellite imagery, and “waypoints” to help drivers navigate to their destinations.

Visually-oriented driving directions in digital mapping system

Abstract:

Digital mapping techniques are disclosed that provide visually-oriented information to the user, such as driving directions that include visual data points along the way of the driving route, thereby improving the user experience.

The user may preview the route associated with the driving directions, where the preview is based on, for example, at least one of satellite images, storefront images, and heuristics and/or business listings.

Inventors: Andrew R. Golding and Jens Eilstrup Rasmussen
United States Patent Application 20050288859
Published December 29, 2005
Filed: July 13, 2005

The application describes how it might choose landmarks, or “waypoints” as it calls them. It also discusses incorporating user feedback and advertising into the program.

Here’s a snapshot they provide of some of the aspects of how it may work:

As previously explained, computer-generated driving directions are typically expressed in abstractions that are convenient for computers, such as “Stay on Main St. for 1.2 miles”, etc.

In contrast, human-generated directions tend to be more visually-oriented, such as “Stay on Main St, you’ll pass a big Sears on your left, then turn right at the Dunkin Donuts”. Through the use of satellite-based imagery and/or storefront images, a mapping system configured in accordance with an embodiment of the presenting invention can give more visually-oriented (and hence human-friendly) directions.

For instance, satellite-based imagery (such as that provided by Google Earth or Digital Globe) can be used to identify salient buildings, structures, and/or areas for use as way points (e.g., a particularly large building, an isolated building, a baseball or other large stadium, a park in an otherwise urban area).

In addition, using image interrogation techniques, structures such as traffic lights and stop signs can be identified, which are also useful in giving directions.

The document discusses:

  • Identification and scoring of waypoints,
  • Incorporating those waypoints into driving directions,
  • Using human and GPS-based feedback to improve upon the directions,
  • Advertising on this system, and;
  • Providing an auto-preview to show a traveler more about how to get to his or her destination.

I could have used that last feature on my long drive up the East Coast. A set of directions, with pictures on them would have been helpful. Here’s something like what I needed for the last few miles:

“After exiting the Mass Pike, and turning right on Rt. 9, cross over the short bridge just past the Dunkin’ Donuts, and travel past two traffic lights. Look for the large hotel to the right, just after a McDonalds. Just past it will be your Econo-lodge.”

Now, just because there is a patent application on file doesn’t mean that it will come to pass. But I really hope that this one does.

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10 thoughts on “Human Friendly Driving Directions From Google?”

  1. Hi Nadir,

    The landmarks do sound great.

    I like trying to use mapping programs instead of trying to map out a route with paper maps, but I have a little lack of faith in them, too.

    I’ll usually look at more than one, to see if they give me different results. They often do.

    The advertising aspect of this patent application bugs me a little, but other than that, it does sound like it could be very helpful.

  2. Hi Bill,

    Last night I used Yahoo! maps to drive to someone’s house about 30 miles away. The 29 first miles were great but when I got off the freeway, the directions were just wrong, or not clear. So I just got lost and had to call my friend who gave me directions that were just different from what I had printed! I showed him the directions that I had and he told me that that was the most difficult path to use to get to his house.

    I agree with the landmarks thing, they definitely need to add visual tips, because saying left, right, 0.1 mi etc is just not clear enough…

  3. Today I used google directions to navigate a trip from an address in Rockville MD 20850 to Capitol College off the highway. I liked the computer printout for being easy to read in the car. All went well until a looking for a turn specified at 0.8 mi. The right answer was probably 8.0 mi. Other mistypes reversed left and right between the directions and reality. Fortunately I had been there before, so the trip was a success. I will know to beware the directions in the future. There is room for improvement.
    Norman

  4. Hi Norman,

    Thanks – I’ve had some issues with maps from Google, and from other online sources as well. The “human friendly” driving directions in this post haven’t come out yet, and I would really like to see them. I tend to have problems with the last few miles on many of the maps/directions that I print out. If something does look like it might be confusing, and the streetviews view is available, I like to look at that and take some additional notes with some landmarks included – that can help with the right/left reversals too. I also try to make sure to get a phone number for my destination if it is available, so that I can call for help :)

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