October 7, 2005 4:00 AM PDT
Driving under the influence of Web maps
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Lopez and 26 minutes to get back to the office, for a total of 42 minutes, compared with 24 minutes estimated.
To get me back to my office, the Web sites all navigated me down the eastern side of Twin Peaks, which offered a pleasing view of much of the city, San Francisco Bay and Oakland. The directions then guided me through the historic Castro district and down Market Street back to CNET Central.
onto a highway, which would have
been trouble at rush hour.
Driving down Market Street was not the best option because, like I said, it's full of street trolleys and, even worse, tourists. Folsom Street, two blocks to the south, wider and less traveled, would have been faster. While Market Street ostensibly has two lanes going each direction, the left lane each way is reserved for buses. The trip down Market would have been a bummer if not for my bold, aggressive and often rule-breaking driving.
Finally, I compared the online driving directions with human knowledge. Getting into a cab, I was tickled to say: "On the double, driver. I'm on deadline," which my Hungarian driver either ignored or pretended not to hear.
Fortunately, the driver lived not too far from my destination. For his route, which cost $37 roundtrip not including tip, he avoided annoying downtown traffic by driving up Howard Street, right by the office, turned right onto a major street, 9th Street, before heading up Market Street. For the return, he again avoided the heart of downtown and turned onto another big street, 8th Street, and then onto Folsom, that big street without all the darn trolleys and tourists.
In the taxi, the drive took 23 minutes out and 24 minutes back, for a total of 47 minutes. While the journey took a little longer than most of the routes navigated by the Web sites, it had a great big upside: I wasn't driving and getting peeved at slow drivers screwing up my unofficial survey.
Did I mention I'm an aggressive driver?
sometimes confusing route.
"In some cases there are anomalies in the maps or driving directions, or there are road developments that may not yet be in our datasets, and we encourage customers who find them to alert us about them at email@example.com," said Trina Seinfeld, group product manager, Microsoft MapPoint.
In fairness to both, really, a Yahoo spokeswoman said: "We have one of the better geo-coding and routing capabilities to date. All mapping products out there are going to have some inconsistencies."
If there's one thing I learned from my day on the road: She's right.
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