Safer walking routes – a proposal to navigation software companies

I mentioned this on a post the other day but have since fleshed out the details.

After walking through the dark streets of London, using Apple Maps as a guide, and finding myself sent up dark and potentially unsafe side roads, I had an idea of a feature that would help with this. After more thought, I realised this would be an ideal project for Google, particularly with access to Street View data and DeepMind for the AI. A friend of mine just happens to work for Google (and, specifically, the DeepMind division), so I sent the idea long…

It occurred to me, as SatNavs often have options for getting there quickly, shorter or scenically, how about, when walking, for a safer route option? At first, I thought that maybe it would just try and avoid smaller side-roads but then I wondered whether street view could be used.

Here’s my thinking, and as it would require an AI element it may be a DeepMind-style project…

Analysis of Street View images to add a weighting to roads, indicating a possible safety rating. This would take into account street lighting, how busy the road is, as well as other items, such as street furniture (seats and public bins would indicate a more pedestrian-friendly area). Cross-that with publicly available crime information and, even better, social network data – what are people saying on Twitter about the area? You could also analyse social photos (inc. those on Google Photos) that are geo-tagged for the area – night time photos would add a further element of data that could be analysed. You could even have a feedback system where users could report streets that they felt unsafe on.

It would also be cool if all of this could be made more publicly available, as it’s related to safety, for other companies to use – they, via an API, could also report back any additional data that they can provide (inc. user feedback).

My friend has now submitted this as a feature request, however, he warned me that this may be a non-starter because of the litigation potential of advising people on ‘safe’ routes. I guessed this may be the case.

But, personally, I think it’s sometimes working around these kind of issues for the sake of something that, let’s be honest, could actually save lives (which is why I also suggested this feature should be shared so other navigation companies can use it and contribute too). Maybe just agreeing to some T&Cs when first using and then, each time it’s used, a smaller reminder that it’s guidance and not guaranteed.

What do you think? A good idea?Here


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