We’re Driving Blind Without More Destination Data


We need more destination information to make transportation more efficient.

People tend to make car trips to the same locations (work, home, market, school, church, etc) — the number is generally believed to be 6 locations, although I don’t know of specific research that supports the claim. Because of our regularity behind the wheel, navigation systems aren’t used on most regular’ trips. We just don’t need them — and that is going to be a limiting factor in opening up the full capability of the transportation market.

But, consider for a moment you know each driver’s destination and you can accomplish some powerful things. For example:

The last example above is the most impactful and the one most hindered by our lack of navigation data. Those cars driving blind’ without making their destination data available are throwing away money, or at least the potential of recouping costs. In the US alone, passenger cars travel nearly 3 trillion miles per year. Should those drivers elect to carry a passenger at even a very modest rate of $.25/mile (an equivalent to transit), that represents a $750B market that is largely unrealized due to lack of destination data.

There are a few ways we can get more destination data.

In a real world example, some congested cities have accidentally produced more destination data, even on common trips. Los Angeles has highly variable traffic and multiple routes are possible, so drivers can have vastly different trips if they can choose the route with the least traffic. This has made Waze an almost critical driving application there, and in turn has exposed a lot of destination data.

In another example, we know a lot about a user’s destination given their calendar. Integrating the calendar locations gives us a rough proxy for where that person is headed. Its limitation, of course, is that users tend not to calendar regular trips (commuting, going to a favorite restaurant after work).

For a more futuristic example, we can use historical patterns of the user. If I turn out of my driveway and make a right and then a left, I’m probably going to my grocery store. Or if it’s 7AM on a Monday and I’m 14% of the route to my office, the vehicle can make an assumption I’m headed there. Ford just published a patent about that very idea. Lyft’s desire to expose this market — via its Driver Destination rollout at the end of last year — falls directly in line with Ford’s line of thinking.

There’s a massive opportunity in knowing Point B information. But until we do, we’re blind to the potential (and $750 billion dollars).