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Simplifying Online Maps using LineDrive Line Maps


Recently I was away home meeting with a new friend who needed directions to my home. Not being a GPS owner, they needed good old fashioned directions to my home. So I drew a line map with a few of the important landmarks, a few notable side-streets, and a few indicators of distance. It only took a minute or so to draw, but it made me think about how directions are displayed on online mapping sites and how they could benefit from increased simplicity rather than increased detail. It reminded me of something I’d been shown a few months ago… LineDrive™ Maps

LineDrive™ is a concept where online directions are displayed not with a full map, but rather a simplified map that provides the essentials and resembles what a human might draw for a map. Sure it doesn’t help you as much if you miss a turn and don’t have a full map printed, but it does make it easier to follow when you’re driving by providing just the essential details and then getting out of the way. Consider the following illustration where three maps are shown– one with a full map, one with a hand-drawn map, and another using LineDrive™ technology. (Click on the image to see it larger.)

This type of display for online directions is still available on the MSN Maps site. Simply go to this URL and along the right column look for the section called “Map Style” and pick LineDrive™. Then build your route as you ordinarily would and the map will display in a line map style. You can also read a white paper on the topic here

While these days I never drive without GPS, I could see myself preferring this style of map if I were to print out driving directions.

One Response

  1. Interesting article and I think that style is very useful (though adding the cities on long trips would be nice). HOWEVER, the direction engine on MSN is evidently different for each style which sounds crazy . Enter Huntersville, NC and Aurora, IL and select “Standard”…you will be rounted N on I-77 all the way to 33 N which takes you through NW through Ohio to Columbus. Enter the same cities and select LineDrive…you will be routed N on I-77 then W on I-40 into Tennessee and N on I-75 up through Kentucky.

    That’s odd enough but neither of those routes is even the best IMHO. I-77 N to I-64 W to 35 N to Dayton is the best. Regardless I find it strange a map style change causes the route to change.

    Dan - October 21st, 2010

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