London: Ever marvelled at a taxi-driver``s knowledge of a city``s short cuts? Well, you can now be happy, as soon you would be able to take advantage of that know-how in your own car.
Initial tests of a virtual cab driver have suggested that it could shave over 10 per cent off journey times through crowded urban streets, reports New Scientist.
The system, designed by Microsoft engineers, is known as T-Drive and starts by monitoring the routes taken by cabbies at different times of day.
To test their idea, the researchers used three months of movement data, representing 400 million kilometres of travel, from a fleet of 33,000 taxis in Beijing.
The taxi trajectories were merged to reveal the roads that cab drivers prefer. Given a request to navigate between any two points in the city, the system could then choose a route based on the roads that are popular with cabbies at that time of day.
For a real-world test, the Microsoft engineers asked a pair of drivers to travel between two locations in Beijing: one was given a route suggested by T-Drive, the other used Google Maps.
Averaged over 30 trials, the two systems produced routes that were roughly the same in length. But T-Drive seemed to know how to avoid stoppages: it produced average drive times of 23 minutes, almost 4 minutes faster than Google Maps.
Yu Zheng, an engineer at Microsoft Research Asia in Beijing, said the advantage comes from the drivers`` intimate knowledge of Beijing streets.
The cabbies know which traffic lights are slow to change and which junctions get snarled up during rush hours.
Zheng presented his work at the ACM Sigspatial International Conference on Advances in Geographic Information Systems in San Jose.