Mumbai Navigator is one great tool that shows the kind of customization that is needed if Google Maps or Yahoo Maps or Microsoft MSN Maps plan to make a foray into the Indian market and be successful at it. Unlike the US or Europe where personal cars rule, getting around places in India is 80% via public transport or a two wheeler. So in India either you ought to be a localite or you must be accompanied by one who knows the city routes like the back of his palm. Tough ask, eh !!! Especially when you land in a new city, right ?
Well, Prof. Abhiram Ranade and his students Mayur Datar (BTech 99), Koustubh Tilak (MTech 2000) and M. Srikrishna (MTech 2002) in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at IIT Bombay have come up with the kind of tool that addresses the unique Indian dimension to commuting in cities. Taking up Mumbai ( previously Bombay ), they have created a huge database of 2053 key points across the city. A visitor has to just choose his starting point from the left column and destination from the right and click on "Get Plan". The program spews out detailed plans to get from the origin to the destination. The best option of a direct bus without any changeovers is presented first along with the estimated time for the journey. Buses which get you to the destination with 1 changeover in between is presented next with information of where exactly you need to change buses. Similarly the plan presents options with 2 changeovers, etc. The route the buses take is also presented vividly. Sound Great !!! Check it out here
Users also have the option of punching in bus numbers directly in case they are aware of them.
How I hope other cities come up with similar plans. I was also wondering the possibilities that would open up if such a software gets integrated with something like, say Google Maps....Is Google listening ?