Microsoft adds cabbies' knowledge to maps

New T-Drive software learns to avoid heavy traffic

Microsoft researchers designing personal taxi driver for future GPS

Researchers working for Microsoft in Beijing are working on incorporating the fabled knowledge of local taxi drivers into a future GPS mapping service.

The problem Microsoft are trying to overcome is that the shortest route from point A to B in a city is not always the quickest. The scheme works by tracking some 33,000 of Beijing's cabs and recording when they deviate from the course with the shortest distance, as when avoiding congested areas, for instance. The software, which Microsoft are calling "T-Drive", then merges this information with GPS data to calculate routes that are not necessarily shorter, but quicker for the motorist all the same.

Microsoft claim that using this local knowledge instead of traditional shortest-route GPS systems, travellers can shave around 16% off their driving times - or around 5 minutes every half hour. Further additions to the T-Drive ahead of a public realease software will include live updates of traffic and accident reports and colourful local humour (possibly).