Monthly Archives: August 2009

Bob Dylan to be new voice of GPS system

According to the Telegraph, Bob Dylan has been approached by multiple GPS manufacturers to be the voice of their GPS system.

While this is ludicrous on the face of it (having listened to Bob for many years, let’s face it, clarity ain’t his strong suit), I find that the best part of the whole story is what people have to say about it. Some of the comments on Digg about this development are truly the greatest remarks I’ve ever seen.

There’s the predictable ones about his clarity, or lack thereof:

“tuhhhhh lef at the lighhhhh”

What?

The natural comparisons to other celebrities doing GPS directions (such as Arnold Schwarzenegger in this case)

“Dis Twaffic sucks. GET TO DAH CHOPPA!”

Or Alan Rickman, which had this as my own contribution:

Hello.

This is

Alan Rickman.

You need to take

a left

in

two hundred

yards.

Do not disappoint me.

And this one:

BILLY MAYS HERE. TURN RIGHT AHEAD POINT 1 MILES.

Or an R. Lee Ermey one:

“I SAID RIGHT YOU WORTHLESS WASTE OF SHIT, I HAVEN’T SEEN DRIVING THIS BAD SINCE I LET MY WIFE DRIVE”

“IF GOD WANTED YOU ON THE TURNPIKE HE WOULD HAVE MIRACLED YOUR ASS ON THERE BY NOW.”

Of course, reworked song lyrics:

Come gather round people wherever you are,
And thank you kindly for using on-star,
And I will help you to maneuver your car,
For the trip you are arranging!
So don’t miss that turn,
And don’t go too far!
Oooh, your destination is a-changing!

Even a pretty decent meta reference comment:

Well, in these modern times, I’m not sure this would be street legal. I mean, when you’re going down highway 61, I’d imagine you’d be fine. You and John Wesley Harding can gaze at the Nashville skyline all you want while using the GPS. But when you’re on those back roads, the system might miss some railroad tracks, leaving you stranded with a slow train coming. If you don’t know to move, oh mercy, there’s going to be blood on the tracks. I can see why one would desire such a GPS, though, as they’ve saved many people from having to drive in circles until the new morning before finding their destination. Well, I guess the times, they are a-changin’, and when you’re out on the road, under a blood red sky and trying to bring it all back home, a GPS will definitely keep you from freewheelin’ for too long.

Digg comments are often a wasteland of human misery and suffering (not as bad as YouTube comments, but close), however this one is pretty good and worth checking out.

Google Maps traffic… it needs work.

I always wondered how Google Maps knew traffic conditions. Today, there’s a blog post where they explain it a bit better.

That ain't on an iPhone...
That ain't on an iPhone...

Basically, they simply have all the phones running Google Maps with GPS send back data as to a) where they are and b) how fast they’re moving. Both of which GPS gives you more or less by default.

It’s a clever idea, and I like it, but it fails in a couple of major ways, IMO.

Firstly, when I use Google Maps on my phone, I tend to not leave it open. Google Maps is fine, but it’s not a very good navigation system. It’s just a map. A real navigation app is worlds better. I recently got Navigon Mobile Navigator on the new iPhone, and it’s pretty slick. Thinking about a dashboard mount for it now, actually.

Secondly, this system relies on a lot of people having Google Maps open and running and sending back data. If nobody with Google Maps running has been on your street recently, you get no information.

What Google really needs to do is to open it up as an API. Let other navigation system manufacturers both send and receive traffic data from the Google Maps system. It doesn’t have to be complex.

Any good navigation app knows your location and speed, so a simple way to send that info could be made easily enough. The problem, of course, is allowing third parties to use the data.

Google Maps works in layers of images, which is one of its major shortcomings, IMO. The street views are images. The terrain are images. Just big sets of tiles that get displayed next to each other. And I’m almost certain that this traffic thing is just another set of images they’re generating or updating. For navigation providers that use 3d views and such, they don’t need that stuff in the form of images, they need it in the form of data. What streets are busy? How can that information be used to improve the navigation? Etc.

Google is generally pretty good at opening up their APIs to third parties. However, they’re generally not good at providing data in different forms. Most of their APIs are “this is what we use, if you need something else we don’t have it” sort of thing. Hopefully, the Google Maps team will see the light here and realize that to get good data, you have to give good data, and start pushing in that direction. Because open traffic data would be pretty cool for everybody.