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Fall 2002
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Wall Street Journal Gives High Praise

AAA's TripTik/Traveler Rated "The Best Cartographer"

  Internet TripTik Traveler screen shot, click to see enlargement
Showing the ferry from Cape May, New Jersey, to the city of Lewes, Delaware. Note the bridge and ferry information is included on narrative.

The next generation may never experience the thrill of racing to find a place on a road atlas before the light turns green or know the joys of folding a street map. And although dashboard navigation systems are becoming more and more commonplace, the vast majority of cars still don't have them. The Internet is the place where increasing numbers of people are getting their driving directions these days. In fact, the word "map" is one of the most commonly used terms in keyword searches on the Web.

Over the most recent 4th of July holiday, reporter Michelle Higgins of the Wall Street Journal set out to see if the most popular online driving direction sites were created equal (Wall Street Journal, July 9, 2002, "Planning That Road Trip Online May Be Trickier Than You Think"). She tested the AAA's Web site, MapBlast, MapQuest, and RandMcNally.com as well as the NeverLost II GPS navigation system in her Hertz rental car. The one rated the highest by the Wall Street Journal, AAA's Internet TripTik/Traveler, is also the only one powered by Esri's ArcIMS.

AAA Selects ArcIMS

AAA has been providing its members with vacation TripTiks on request for years. Members simply provide AAA with their starting point and the sites they'd like to see, and they receive detailed driving directions that include construction and detour information. AAA also includes information on lodging, dining, points of interest, and scenic byways along the route.

When AAA decided to provide its members with an Internet-based driving direction service, it knew heavy competition already existed. However, AAA knew what it had to do to provide its members with more value.

"We were working on a prototype called 'Traveler,'" says Hari Koduru, senior GIS analyst at AAA. "What we wanted to do was integrate AAA proprietary information that we maintain in our other databases and bring it together with the geographic front end on the Internet."

AAA contracted Kivera, Inc., of Oakland, California, for routing and geocoding. Kivera was selected for its expertise in development of automotive navigation systems. AAA also selected ArcIMS from Esri for the application server and mapping. Esri had already been assisting AAA with its digital mapmaking needs since 1997. And, according to Koduru, ArcIMS was also a natural choice because he was intimately familiar with its capabilities. He also knew it would be a scalable solution for the kind of user traffic AAA was hoping for.

Internet TripTik/Traveler Goes Hot

  Internet TripTik Traveler screen shot, click to see enlargement
This map shows route passing through Holland tunnel. Note the detour and construction, and bridge and ferry information included on narrative.

The Internet TripTik/Traveler service was first made available to AAA members in the winter of 2000, and the service has quickly become very popular.

"The demand for it is much higher than we expected," says Koduru.

"With this system, the member can get everything from home," says Ramin Kalhor, director of Publishing Systems at AAA. "For AAA clubs that offer Internet TripTik/Traveler as an in-office solution when members walk in, AAA employees can spend more time with them, meeting their needs face to face rather than spending time at a computer or going over files to find data. This is a way to provide additional service to the member while improving how the AAA clubs operate."

Kalhor says that Internet TripTik/Traveler is now producing more than six million maps per month and handles more than four map draws per second during peak demand.

Wall Street Journal Rates the Sites

Higgins, under the column "Cranky Consumer," devised a simple, nonscientific way to test four of the most popular Web sites and her dashboard navigation system. On Independence Day, Higgins drove from Manhattan in New York City to Atlantic City, New Jersey, using directions she received on the Internet. She also threw in several side trips to destinations along the Jersey shore. The biggest challenge she presented the online mapmakers was a side trip to Lewes, Delaware, less than 15 miles from New Jersey's southernmost point at Cape May. Folks in Delaware and South Jersey can tell you that you can quickly get from Cape Henlopen to the South Jersey shore (or vice versa) by taking the Cape May-Lewes ferry; unfortunately, some of the Internet direction services could not.

Her article pointed out that several systems recommended an overland four-hour route instead of the leisurely one-hour ferry ride. According to Higgins, "The best cartographer was AAA. It was one of only two to spot the timesaving ferry (MapBlast did also), and its printout was one of the easiest to follow. Also, it describes possible construction bottlenecks along the route."

Consistently Improving Functionality

As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, one of the key features that sets Internet TripTik/Traveler apart is its ability to warn motorists of possible delays due to construction and detours.

"That's where our highway information data comes in," says Koduru. "It's a pretty intensive process. All the construction information that is gathered has to be normalized and spatially enabled to be able to pull it into a map on the fly. That information is updated weekly or, for a critical change, it is updated immediately. This is one of the many value-added services that we offer our members."

For more information, call Ramin Kalhor (tel.: 407-444-8177, e-mail: rkalhor@national.aaa.com).

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