Uber – Google Driverless Cars: The End of Drivers?

uberlogo[1]When I went to L.A. in July, I used Uber to travel back to the Airport. Of course, that was during rush hour, which is not a smart move. But the driver – an L.A. native – knew the shortcuts to get me from Venice Beach to LAX in a faster time.

So how would a driverless car do it?

Local independent transportation company Uber announced today they want to invest up to $375 million for 2,500 driverless cars from Google when they become available toward the end of the year. Their investment also included a commitment to share data with Google for the trips.

Google – who has been developing driverless cars since 2008 – just showed the GX3200 earlier this year at the Detroit Auto Show. The GX3200 is a four-person, 3 suitcase car with built-in Wifi and a charge that can get up to 750 miles.

For Uber, this could mean faster rollouts in cities they never planned to be a part of. Having 1-2 cars in towns with populations less than 10,000 is a reality. You don’t even a dispatcher living there, since the app takes care of the process.

Uber is in 24 cities in the U.S. – Just adding Honolulu last week – and 18 worldwide locations. Of course, major hurdles in some areas as labor unions petition this service and new regulations trying to shut down the Uber Taxi service.

Still, the question begs – do you want a driverless car? I would be more happy to have a car show up for me to get in and drive to my desired location. Having some control at this stage in the autonomous car period will make me feel safer.

With newer Google Maps – including the recently purchased and implemented Waze software (predictive software that finds alternate routes) – I could see a driverless car act just like my Uber driver from July.

Would you get into a driverless car?

Google wants you to map the world

Google Maps and its Street View program have traveled across much of the world, beginning with streets and then venturing out to trails, museums and even under the waves at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Now the search giant wishes to enlist the aid of users to go further that ever.

The company is enlisting volunteers to strap on its cameras and head off around the world. The first example of this was carried out in Hawaii and information and images can be found on the Google Maps blog.

“We’re working to build the very best map of the world, and we’d love your help to do it. Today we’re kicking off a pilot program that enables third party organizations to borrow the Street View Trekkerand contribute imagery to Google Maps. For the first time ever, this program will enable organizations to use our camera equipment to collect 360-degree photos of the places they know best — helping us make Google Maps more comprehensive and useful for all. This program is part of our ongoing effort to make it possible for anyone to contribute to Google Maps”.

The first partner, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB), has already begun using the Trekker to take photos of the most popular, well-trafficked sites on the Hawaiian islands for future inclusion on Google Maps.

If you wish to be next, then this is the time to register. Got a big trip planned? Want to contribute to what has widely been considered the best map service in the world? Pack your bags!

Will Google Announce Maps 3D Next Week?

It may be fairly short notice, but today Google issued invitations to a Google Maps event to be held on June 6th, less than 5 days away now.  The announcement  doesn’t give any indication what the event will be about, but the title may not be quite so cryptic to understand.  “The Next Dimension of Google Maps”.

Google Maps already has a limited amount of 3D content, displaying famous structures.  It seems logical that they will be taking this technology to the next level, but to warrant an event would indicate this is more than just an incremental update to the service.  It has been rumored that Apple will soon be ending their partnership with Google as the iOS maps supplier and that they are working on 3D for their own map service.  Perhaps Google is looking to beat the Cupertino company to the punch.

Whatever the announcement is, we will find out very soon – next Wednesday to be precise.  Perhaps there will be more than just 3D to announce as well.

The London Underground but Overground

The map of the London Underground is world famous for its linear representation of train stations and lines. It was created by Harry Beck in the 1930s and subsequently became the standard by which other metro and subway maps were designed. The map uses a simple set of rules to great advantage, such as coloured lines, stations equally spaced, lines can only go horizontally, vertically or diagonally, curves always have the same radius and so on. Here’s a small section of the map showing some of these features (the whole map is copyright Transport for London).

However, we’re now so used this particular version, that it’s easy to forget that it represents a physical geography. With a mashup of Google Maps and station co-ordinates, Jonathan Stott has put together a representation of the London Underground, showing where the underground lines are in the real world. The image below is just a screenshot – if you go over to his website, you can play with the map.

It’s interesting to see where the underground lines actually go but it’s also worth reflecting that this is exactly what Harry Beck was trying to get away from 80 years ago.

Bing Releases Joplin Tornado App

Bing has release an app that documents the massive damage from the May 22nd Joplin, Missouri tornado.  The new app is a part of Bing Maps, which has become a really nice competitor for Google Maps.  According the Bing team the photos come from “Surdex, one of our Global Ortho flying partners, captured these images 36 hours after the event at an amazing 7.5 cm resolution (which means each pixel represents an area about the size of a standard post-it note). Surdex is making these images freely available to government agencies as a public service (see their website for details).”

The app shows both before and after photos that document the sad damage of the massive EF-5 storm.  Users can flip back and forth between both the before and after shots to see the changes.

To access it, you can visit the Joplin Tornado app page.

MarineTraffic.com – Live Ships Map

MarineTraffic.com is a live map showing the location of shipping of 299 GT (gross tonnage) or over. Sounds boring but in fact it’s a totally awesome mashup of data. You can zoom into your local coast and see what’s pottering about or you can follow a ship in the news and see what’s happening to it.

Here’s what’s going on in the English Channel:

Here are the ships waiting to go through the Panama Canal.

You can also follow ships that are in the news. Here’s the MSC Opera which lost power in the Baltic and the tug Svitzer Trym in attendance. If you click on a ship you can get further details, including the speed and pictures of the vessel.

Finally, here’s one of the UK’s latest warships undergoing trials. HMS Dragon is a Type 45 destroyer.

There are additional clients for iPhone and Android users. And if you want to get notifications of what your favourite boats are doing, you can sign up for alerts and notifications.

Great resource if you want to see what’s going on, especially if you have a sea view and you want to know what’s floating past.

Typographic Maps

Boston Typography MapI love maps.  You look at an Ordnance Survey Landranger map and you see a thousand years of history, of exploration, of society, of geography all in single sheet of paper that you can fold up and put in your pocket.  GPS gives you directions but a map gives you a world.

Consequently, I was fascinated and delighted to see these typographic maps from Axis Maps.  Currently only available for Boston and Chicago, every feature that you’d expect to see has been created using just type.  So for roads and highways, you have a ribbon of text made from the street’s name.   The names of neighbourhoods fill in the blocks as subtle shading.  Trains and subways are picked out in the name of the line.

ChicagoIt’s taken the team at Axis Maps over two years to create the city maps – the idea started with a University of Wisconsin party invite – and the whole process is covered on their blog, along with lots more images.  They started with OpenStreetMap images and then carefully added text over the feature areas.  There was also great deal of copy’n’paste but the end result is worth it.

If you do go over to their website, click on some of the thumbnails – you’ll get a pop-up that expands and zooms the detail.

BostonChicago

The maps are available to purchase – $30 gets you a 2ft-ish x 3ft-ish print.  UK dwellers can purchase from zazzle.co.uk – just search for Axis Maps.  I’ll be ordering Chicago shortly.

All images copyright of Axis Maps LLC.

Road Trip!

Hubby, the kids and I are going to be running away for a week in the middle of July.  We’re leaving hot and steamy St. Louis and headed north to Wisconsin to visit friends and family, and spend a day or two in the Dells.  A good old-fashioned American Road Trip.  We love our road trips, and in fact usually travel as a family no other way.  I head down to the local Thrifty Car Rental and pick up a sizable beast of a car, pack a basket of road snacks, load up all the iPods and MP3 players with music and audio books, and away we go.  This trip will be about a seven hour drive, which is tolerable and entertaining, especially when we get to drive by things like this. (For a full run-down on the interesting things we found at the antique mall in Illinois in March, you can check out my personal blog post for our last trip.

In preparation for our trip, I was over on Mapquest looking at driving directions.  We are trying to decide if we want to make a detour near Bloomington, Illinois, or not.  And lo and behold, Mapquest has a new beta out, and making detours or multiple legs of a trip to get more specific directions is a brand spanky new (and useful!) feature on the new Mapquest.  I know I’m a bit of a holdout for using Mapquest to begin with, but I’m kind of a creature of habit, and I like how Mapquest did things, including how they responded to feedback I’ve given over the years about driving routes.  I’ve used Google Maps on occasion, but I still often end up back on Mapquest.

And I have to say, the new Mapquest, still in beta for the moment, is pretty darned nifty!  The logo has changed, which in my mind was probably unnecessary, but beyond that, there are some great functional changes that I like a whole lot.  You are immediately faced with a map on the right, and a text box on your left where you can put in the location you want to find in one single line, ala Google Maps.  Once you enter the location data and hit enter, a new map immediately pops up.  The text box now has a link below it for directions, giving you another text box to put in your other location, and within a second, you have a new map, and full driving directions.  At that point you can “add more stops,” getting a complete set of directions that will take you to multiple places, rather than just a beginning and an end, and needing to start all over again for a second destination if you want to add one.

This is going to be great for our road trip.  I can now map from Missouri to Bloomington, to Baraboo, WI, to the Dells, to House on the Rocks, and back to Missouri, without having to re-enter data and print separate directions and maps.  It also gives us a great overall idea of what our trip will entail, driving wise, something I had to sort of guess at with my terrible math skills before.

Now I’m really in a vacation state of mind, with two more weeks of work to go before we can blow this pop stand and I can test Mapquest’s new mapping features!

GNC-2007-07-24 #287

Show really flew tonight covered a great deal of ground in a hurry. Think you will like the fast paced format

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Show Notes:
Spacewalk Junk Toss
Mozilla Whoops
Label says Please Pirate
SunRocket Fall out
Japanese SpaceCraft Mistake
VC Money
SlideShare Update
Virtual or Desktop
Pageflakes
Webmaster Controls
Maps – Maps – Maps
Scoble and RSS
Wireless USB
FritzBox
OS X Worm and Death Threats?
New Zune
XM – Sirius Price Reduction
iPhone Hacked via Safari
Microsoft Web Analytics
ISP Cox redirecting PC’s
FCC Needs to Listen
Netflix Lowers Subscription
$5.00 to enter Apple Store ;)
Why men die before Women
Google Fear Hits AT&T
Scratch Programing for Kids
Online Media Tools
Drew Carey
Opportunity Survives