Idea: Driving Time Predictor

When you live in a sprawled suburb like the Silicon Valley, it’s sometimes hard to predict how long it will take you to drive from point A to point B. For example, my one-way commute time from Mountain View to San Francisco has ranged between 45 and 120 minutes in the past few months. 

Of course the travel times are somewhat predictable. I know that if it’s a nice day and I leave SF at 10 am, the odds of time(travel) < 50 are high. Maybe once a week or so there is an accident that sets me back 10-15 minutes. Friday afternoons are different, coming back from Mountain View usually takes patience; I know that if I leave around 6 pm I probably be in the city by 7:30.

The obvious question is, what if I need to be in Oakland for a 5:30 pm meeting for which I just cannot be late? Google says it would take me 50 minutes if I left now. It’s 3:55 as I write this, if I were driving away this second I would arrive at my destination by 4:45. However, it’s raining outside. What are the odds that there will be an accident somewhere along the way? How much does traffic fluctuate during this time of the day, on a Tuesday? The point is that when I have an important appointment tens of miles away I have to make sure to pay attention to the clock since much earlier, which is distracting. What I would like is for Google (or whoever) to tell me when I need to leave A order to be at B before time T. Also, I’d like two modes: 

  • 80% confidence: I probably will be on time, but if I’m late it’s no biggie.  
  • 99% plus: most likely I will be early, but a high chance of being on time is worth the extra 20 minutes or whatever.

This could be done analyzing historical data, real-time traffic, and weather conditions. I would want to run the query in the morning, and have the service send me an update (SMS, email) any time my suggested departure time changes. Would I pay for this? Possibly, but I’d have to try it first. 

4 thoughts on “Idea: Driving Time Predictor

  1. I shared office space with FlightCaster. This idea is inspired by what they were doing. One of the reasons it didn’t take off (pardon the pun) is that most people could not act on information like “there’s a 60% chance your flight will be delayed by 75 minutes.”This is a different problem. You can act on information regarding traffic conditions, and you could use this information to be as conservative as you need.

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