Monday, November 29, 1999

Travel made easier

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Mumbai, May 16 -- Earlier this year, Google launched Google Maps in India. The application is an advanced navigation system that provides specific driving directions to the drivers, similar to the Global Positioning System (GPS). The idea is to help them maneuver their vehicles even through the city's small, meandering lanes without losing track. Application has been in use in the US and the UK for a while now. However, it had to be modified to suit India's needs. "People here are culturally inclined to navigate using landmarks rather than road names," says Vijay Singh, tech expert. The most popular landmarks are elaborated in the 'Landmarks' option in the 'Driving directions' category. Using this feature from their desktops and mobile phones, people can navigate around locations in India following landmarks like petrol stations, banks, schools, railway stations, bus stops, local businesses, traffic circles and signals. Another drawback this application addresses is that in India roads are often not properly marked, and wherever they are, the markings are not visible. So landmarks are affixed with known terms like 'close to', 'near' or 'next to' a particular place, which makes it easier and faster to find locations. At present, the application only supports driving directions, though it is likely that there will also be support for walking and public transport directions in the future. Here's how it works Users need to log on to Google Maps on the Google India search engine. The search engine provides start and end address columns. Users fill their choice of destination and the place from where they are commencing their journey. Google Maps then provides the user with an approximate distance, estimated time of arrival at the destination and the best route to get there. A list of landmarks is also provided to help drivers turn left or right wherever needed. These landmarks could be shops, schools, petrol pumps or even temples. If the final destination is known to the driver, there exists an option to type in that as well. The application can then guide the user to that particular place.

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