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Reducing range, lateness and lack of turn-by-turn anxiety, especially for iPhone users

New Twist App to rival Waze

A new iPhone app called Twist has been launched to let people know your ETA - to know when to expect you, and avoid the embarrassment of being late, or maybe even early!

The newly released App calculates your estimated time of arrival using an algorithm based on location and traffic data, to communicate to anyone in the drivers appointment diary an accurate arrival time by e-mail, SMS or on the web.

Twist was founded by serial entrepreneur and investor Bill Lee, with Mike Belshe, having raised $6M in funding from Bridgescale Partners and other investors. 

Belshe, who was an early investor in Tesla Motors demonstrated Twist, and gave a test drive of his new Tesla S class electric vehicle, to tech blogger Robert Scoble in this video - which is worth a view for general discussion of GPS apps, including Waze (previously featured on the Transport KTN site).


EV range efficiency app under development

Another GPS-based routing system is currently in development at the University of California, Riverside, to extend the range of electric vehicles by at least 10%, through calculating the most energy efficient route to a given destination.

The routing will be based on a combination of real-time traffic data, road type and grade, a vehicle’s passenger and cargo weight and weather conditions. Current GPS systems are able to select routes based on distance or estimated travel times, with some able to reroute drivers based on traffic flow, but not specifically for minimising energy consumption or emissions. A research group from the University’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) recently received a $95,000 grant from the California Energy Commission to develop the algorithm, based on sampling data on an EV’s energy consumption under real-world driving conditions.


Waze data used in iOS6 Maps beta

Meanwhile, the tit-for-tat battle between Apple and Google looks closer to the final stages before divorce; the first public perceived sleight being the search giants’ later move into the mobile market with its rival Android operating system (OS). Apple’s latest incarnation of its phone OS - shortly to be released as iOS6 - shows its seriousness in running away from Google as fast as it can, with an own entirely new Maps application.

Although Apple previously made Google Maps a prominent feature of the iPhone, Google did not allow its data to be used for turn-by-turn navigation on iOS, while offering this as a free built-in feature for Android. 

So, at it’s World Wide Developer Conference last month, Apple previewed a Beta release of its iOS6, with a built in Maps application, not using Google’s data, including features that “Find your way to your destination using turn-by-turn spoken directions, a 3D view, and real-time traffic information.” 

The Maps application will also offer integration with the Siri voice user interface and includes Flyover imagery. 

The significance of mapping for Apple is illustrated by Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster - who suggests that maps are the third most popular use of the iPhone, ahead of phone calls, and only behind texting and web surfing. Android therefore has a current feature advantage in having turn by turn navigation built in to all its current phones for free, while the alternative iPhone TomTom Europe App costs £94.99, for example.

The consumer version of iOS6 is expected to be released to coincide with a new version of the iPhone, which the industry expects to be in October. Apple has a general policy never to pre-announce hardware products but circulates beta versions of major OS updates to third party developers to allow their applications to be ready, and OS bugs to be ironed out, in time for the public release. These approved developers are required to sign nondisclosure agreements, but leaked information suggests that data for the new iOS 6 Maps is supplied by Waze, in addition to Getchee, Localeze, Urban Mapping, DMTI, MapData Sciences and TomTom.  

Following the language of the latest iPad launch, and the pre-announcing of a numbered OS, it’s probable that Apple will end its previous practice of releasing numbered product lines, such as iPhone 3, iPhone 3S, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S etc. - instead, simply calling its next iPhone, the iPhone. The intention would then be to promote platform stability, therefore preventing what is known as the Osbourne effect, while promoting the upgradability of the platform and variety of Apps; both areas where iOS has an advantage over Android.

According to respected technology columnist Andy Ihnatko, the Waze and Twist apps both gave reasonably accurate results in his testing, ahead of Google’s equivalent. Modern GPS apps, when used responsibly,” he concludes “aren’t distractions. ..... by taking over the tasks of navigation and essential communications, they help the driver to keep their eyes on the road, and devote a greater percentage of their brain’s limited CPU power to the things that are actually important: driving safely, defensively, and alertly...”

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