Home Is Microsoft Driving at Google with Bing Maps Improvements & Patent?

Is Microsoft Driving at Google with Bing Maps Improvements & Patent?

Microsoft announced enhancements to its Bing Maps, including a change to the algorithm that allows the service to process directions requests twice as fast and help drivers avoid traffic.

Those changes, along with a newly-awarded patent for a feature that allows Bing Maps to route pedestrians away from unsafe neighborhoods, suggest Mcirosoft is driving to surpass Google Maps, which has dominated the space since surpassing MapQuest in site traffic and queries in 2008.

Microsoft has not announced a timetable for implementing the safe routing feature, which would use crime statistics to steer pedestrians away from neighborhoods that don’t meet certain safety thresholds.

The changes that have been launched build off of a Microsoft Research presentation at the 10th International Symposium on Experimental Algorithms last May. Those tweaks could be significant because they can incorporate new metrics in a few seconds: fast enough, the paper’s abstract noted, “to support real-time traffic updates and personalized optimization functions.”

The newly enhanced mapping service also allows users to select up to three routes in a single directions request. That’s similar to a feature Google Maps has offered for quite some time, but the recently-upgraded Bing pinpoints potential traffic problems and suggests quicker alternatives.

For example, a trip from Somerville, Mass., where I am typing this post, to South Boston – on the exact opposite side of downtown Boston and peak rush hour traffic – will take 17 to 19 minutes, depending what route I choose, according to Google Maps. Bing, on the other hand, also tells me the 6.6-mile trip will take about 15 minutes. But when I click on a link that lets me view the route based on traffic, Bing serves up real-time traffic conditions, showing construction delays and details and tells me in all likelihood the trip will probably take closer to 22 minutes.

To be fair, the Google Maps results incorporate traffic data as well, but the Bing upgrade makes those traffic problems more obvious by displaying them directly on the map.

A screenshot from a Bing Map route request showing real-time traffic conditions in downtown Boston during rush hour on Jan. 5, 2012.

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