Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Swimming to New York

I'm not the first person to point out the humorous suggestion from Google Maps when you ask for directions from the UK to the US (see step 36), but it got me thinking.

One of the shortcomings of Google Maps is that it has no knowledge of anything but driving so it won't advise me to jump on a plane if I want to get to the US. For that matter if I ask it how to get to London Waterloo from my house, it doesn't know anything about trains so again will tell me how to drive there. It doesn't know anything about congestion charging or parking charges either so doesn't realise only the super rich or super stupid would ever consider driving into central London.

Transport for London has the opposite problem because it completely ignores the driving option, which in some circumstances might make sense (try taking public transport from SW London to SE London without dying of old age on the way for instance).

A while ago I wanted to investigate transport options for getting to my dad's house in Spain. Here things get even more complicated. There are loads of different websites with information about planes, trains and ferries but I had to find them and then compare prices, times etc.

But none of this stuff is properly integrated. The data is mostly available so it just requires an uber geek to figure how to build a mashup site that takes data from all these different sites and pulls it together in one place. I need to be able to enter a start location, an end location and then be able to get results sorted on which is cheapest or fastest or most environmentally friendly and lets me buy all the required tickets. Presumably if somebody did make such a thing, they could probably finance it by getting commission on the bookings.

And another thought, my guess is one of the reasons people who may be concerned about the environment still take flights rather than taking the overland option is that it is so much easier to book a flight than to book the alternative train and ferry. Oh, and cheaper... Er, and quicker... But at least this site could remove one obstacle.

So, any takers?

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