One of the more impressive transportation technologies we saw in Beijing was a consumer friendly approach to traffic routing. The Beijing municipal government had developed a GPS technology that would allow drivers to access the Internet from their PC or cell phone and identify the quickest way to their route using real time data from satellites. We wondered why no one was working on this in the U.S., where reading neon signs over the road telling you your already in congestion passes for state of the art.
Well, it turns out, someone was. But it wasn't the local transit authority, or the local transportation planning agency. They're too busy trying get people out of their cars, not making their trips easier. It was Google. Google has just launched a new technology with its on-line mapping technology that allows users to find the fastest route, add multiple stops, and avoid congestion. Users can "drag and click" new destinations and routes. It's part of google maps' "Draggable Driving Directions". A video demonstrating the technology can be found here.
As traffic congestion gets worse, and iPhone technology becomes more diffuse, the short-term prospects for this technology are pretty strong. Once again, Google shows why its ahead of everyone else in the U.S.