I remember when one of my co-workers once asked me if I would help her plot out a map and customized travel directions so that she could go on a road trip to two of the largest shopping malls in the area.
I’m not always delighted with the driving directions that I get from one of the mapping services on the web, and this was something of a challenge because the trip would pretty much be a big triangle – Point A to Point B (Plymouth Meeting Mall) to Point C (King of Prussia Mall) to Point A.
I pretty much had to plot three sets of courses and try it in at least three mapping programs until I got some customized travel directions that seemed like they would work best. Then, at some point, it went from challenging to painful.
I guess I’m not the only one who wished that driving directions could be a little more customizable.
A patent application published last week from Google describes a process where you can make tweaks and changes to your driving directions and alter which choices the program makes to get you from one location to another.
Method and apparatus for customizing travel directions
Inventors: Jens Eilstrup Rasmussen and Lars Eilstrup Rasmussen
US Patent Application 20060064241
Published March 23, 2006
Filed: December 8, 2004
Various methods, systems, and apparatuses for customizing travel actions in travel directions are disclosed. For example, one method and apparatus includes providing a first set of travel directions to a user, the travel directions including at least one travel action, receiving at least one selected travel action, and a replacement travel action from the user associated with the first set of travel directions, and outputting the second set of travel directions associated with the at least one selected travel action and the replacement travel action.
Another method and apparatus include obtaining travel directions based on a start point and an endpoint, comparing travel actions from the travel directions with a customization file, the customization file including at least one selected travel action and a replacement travel action, determining that at least one travel action in the travel directions is the same as the at least one selected travel action, and integrating the replacement travel action into the travel directions.
One of the things that I found interesting about this document was that it used the phrase “Travel Directions” instead of “Driving Directions.” It wasn’t until near the bottom of the page where the significance of this became more clear, as they noted:
Other embodiments may include providing any travel directions, such as driving directions, walking directions, bus or train directions, or any directions that would be useful for customizing certain travel actions.
When Ask unveiled their mapping/directions program at the end of February, I thought it was a nice touch to include walking directions. However, I don’t think that we can say these patent applications means that Google will be adding walking directions to their program any time soon. This sentence from the application on a mix of directions has me envisioning some hybrid choices, though, with a Google Transit rolled in for good measure.
When I discussed a related patent application in Human-Friendly Driving Directions From Google? I didn’t write much about the advertising aspects of it:
 In one particular embodiment, businesses are allowed to bid or otherwise pay to be included as a waypoint.
The “cost-per-use” of a waypoint could then be an additional factor that would be considered when scoring each waypoint.
Furthermore, incorporating one or more of the scored waypoints into requested driving directions could include selecting waypoints related to a destination of the requestor.
For instance, if the user asks for driving directions to a national park, then waypoints such as camping equipment stores could be selected for integration into the served driving directions.
This choice of waypoints has several benefits:
(1) the waypoints might be of interest in their own right;
(2) the waypoints are more likely to be familiar to the user and thus better waypoints; and
(3) advertisers would be likely to pay more for such targeted waypoint usage.
It’s kind of interesting to consider how traveling directions and advertisements might mesh together in the future. Imagine being able to customize your driving directions to see the types of waypoints and ads you might be most interested in. So, for instance, on a lunchtime journey, you may ask to see all of the Mexican and Chinese restaurants along the way. Or all of the antique shops.
I imagine that you could put together a pretty nice shopping day road trip using customized travel directions.
Why do I have a suspicion that I’ll be asked to help plot a few of those out?