Works in Progress III: Crime-Avoidant Walking Directions

The most recent project I’ve been thinking about is a map app that occurred to me while I was walking from Cal Train to BART in San Francisco. I stumbled upon a supremely sketchy block full of vagrants and smelling of urine. Returning back from a trip, everything of value that I owned was in my backpack and I just prayed I wouldn’t get mugged. I wondered to myself if GoogleMaps took crime stats into account when giving walking directions. As a GIS analyst myself it struck me this seemed to me like a fairly do-able project.

A simple google search yielded a number of articles from early 2012 when Microsoft filed a patent for this type of technology. The technology was controversial because a map that avoids crime-ridden areas of most cities seems like a racist map. If the crime data is pin-pointed and updates dynamically I don’t think there should be too much of a problem with racial repercussions, but it’s something to keep thinking about.

I wondered whether or not Microsoft’s mapping software (BingMaps) was now taking weather or crime stats into account. Since the patent is public record, I emailed one of the names on the patent to ask about the patent and see if I could be of any help. He said “I don’t know of any work at Microsoft to exploit this idea. I am not planning to do anything in this area.” I’ll run the idea by my geonerds this week, see if there are any next steps.