Microsoft has just been awarded a patent (via GeekWire) for "pedestrian route production" that accounts for various factors, such as time of day, weather or, most importantly, crime rates, and can automatically adjust the recommended route to account for these variables.
"As a pedestrian travels, various difficulties can be encountered, such as traveling through an unsafe neighborhood or being in an open area that is subject to harsh temperatures," reads the patent abstract. "A route can be developed for a person taking into account factors that specifically affect a pedestrian. Moreover, the route can alter as a situation of a user changes; for instance, if a user wants to add a stop along a route."
Microsoft goes on to say that, while there are solid route production solutions in place for vehicles and these offer the ability to specify certain travel constraints (such as 'avoid highways'), the differences between pedestrian routes and automobile routes are quite different. For example, a pedestrian can commonly traverse terrain that is more rugged then many vehicles. However, a pedestrian is also susceptible to environmental elements, such as extreme cold.
"A large amount of focus in route generation has focused upon vehicle route generation and little attention has been paid to pedestrian route production," Microsoft says. "However, there has been a long felt need for route generation towards individuals that do not commonly travel by vehicle."
Microsoft's solution would include "a gather component [that] obtains information related to intended pedestrian travel and a generation component [that] produces a route based upon at least part of the obtained information." The company goes on to say that the pedestrian route is produced based on security information, weather information, terrain information, or a combination of the above, and later says the technology could even mean a pedestrian arriving faster than a vehicle because of a more direct route.
"Due to detailed route planning, a direction set can be created that allows a user to take more diverse paths that can compensate for a general lack of speed," the company said.