Several years ago as I was planning a car trip for me, my wife and teenage son from Washington, DC to Sarasota, FL, I faced the all-too-common challenge of trying to figure out where to stop along the route. Using Google maps I plotted out the route and then eye-balled some of the likely stopover points based on the larger names that appeared on the map. Hmmm, Savannah, GA always sounded like a neat place to visit, lets make that one of the stops. None of the other names incited any interest and so it took a good bit of research to finally settle on St. Augustine, Florida for our other stopover. We’d stop at St. Augustine on the way down and Savannah on the return trip to DC.
I remember thinking that this was a rather inefficient way to plan a trip, and that there must be many great cities to visit and sites and attractions to see along this route (besides of course South of the Border).
The problem then occurred to me; driving directions have blinders on. They don’t illuminate all the great possibilities along a route. Even though some sites like AAA TripTiks and MapQuest are attempting to solve this problem, they have no sensitivity to distance so they serve up the same information whether you’re traveling 2 miles or 2,000. This has implications on many fronts, and so it seemed like a very worthwhile problem to solve. Thus began what I now refer to as my route obsession.
When you look at our flagship site Cost2Drive.com, you’ll see evidence of this type of thinking. For example, when a user enters a route we surface the cheapest flight found on Kayak for that route, but only if its over 200 miles in distance (it’s distance-sensitive). We also view routes not as simple origin-destination pairs (a very flight-centric view of the world) but as a corridor with many wonderful things to see and do in between. For example, we plot out the refueling points along the way, not only to identify the cheapest gas prices at those points, but as a visual cue to users of where they’ll likely need to stop. The trip-planning process logically unfolds from there.
This is all enabled by the Galculator, our route-aware technology that powers all of the C2G applications. With hundreds of startups focusing on location-based targeting, we see a vast new frontier emerging in a related field, one that we call route-based targeting. We feel we’ve only scratched the surface on this exciting opportunity, and as the peak summer travel season approaches you’ll see some more examples of how we’re feverishly working to remove the blinders from driving directions, both for travelers and advertisers alike.