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Who wants to help design an all-new trip planner from the ground up?
GoneNomad
Who wants to help design an all-new trip planner from the ground up?

There's a handful of semi-regulars on here who know each other, and who know that people who need a full-featured trip planner haven't had any real options for years, ever since Microsoft & Delorme put their products on life support, even before pulling the plug.

The obvious target market is truckers & RVers, so first and foremost it has to cater to their needs, which the best available alternatives do not. This group would probably pay $100 up front and $20+ annually for updates (pricing somewhere in the range between S&T and Copilot truck).

So, who's interested?
Boyd
No interest whatsoever. Aside from the fact that I don't need it, I think there's an economic reason why nobody else is doing this. Of course, if it's something that would be fun as a hobby, that's cool. Lord knows I spend plenty of time doing things that don't earn anything.
GoneNomad
Actually there are many different Android trip planner apps available.

The problem is that none of them provide most of the functionality that S&T had, and that high-frequency travelers (e.g.: truckers & RVers) need.
GoneNomad
Well, I guess this must be the other end of the market:

https://www.route4me.com/public_upgradeAccount.php?lp=ftr

$249 / month for the base version that doesn't have the "advanced features" (time windows, vehicle types, etc), and works with up to 7 users.

The "most popular" version has some (but not all of those features) and supports up to 100 users, for only $999/month.

Wow...

The Android app is free to download & install but I guess it only works for the free trial period.
SpadesFlush
Quote:
Originally Posted by GoneNomad
Actually there are many different Android trip planner apps available.

The problem is that none of them provide most of the functionality that S&T had, and that high-frequency travelers (e.g.: truckers & RVers) need.
Which, in this forest of apps, comes closest to S&T in your view?
SpadesFlush
I like the idea of an app successor to S&T/AR.

But I am daunted by the scope of design.

I might be tempted to contribute to such a program.

Right now, I tend to use Google maps and concurrently S&T/AR. Neither is faultless so this is a sort of hedge strategy.
GoneNomad
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpadesFlush
Which, in this forest of apps, comes closest to S&T in your view?
Like you, I see a forest. It has a lot of weeds and some pretty flowers, but not many trees that will yield useful lumber.

In the past I've spent some time (honestly, way too much) evaluating a few of the trees, but found them all lacking... and apparently the product of a designers who don't have any idea of the needs of "High Frequency Travelers" - especially those who have to stay on a pre-defined schedule (which is most non-recreational HFTs)

If I had to pick ONE, as of now it would be Furkot, which DOES have a LOT of features. But my interaction with the developers makes it apparent that despite their terrific accomplishment, they are a little too invested in what they've cultivated over the past few years, to consider that they have some weeds (flaws) in need of eradication, and some bare patches that need new crops (features that are easy to appreciate... if you look at the problem from the perspective of HFTs who really need products like this).

Another one that MIGHT be good is "InRoute" but I've never evaluated it because it's iOS only.
That said, I think that any trip planner that will meet the needs of HFTs will just about have to run on Windows. It would be great to have mobile device apps too, to assure easy importation of trip plans, but the reality is that actually creating complex trip plans on a 5" screen (regardless of the res.) is an exercise in futility.

What I have in mind would make it a lot easier to use the information HFTs need to plan complex trips. The info is out there, but pulling it from the various sources is not a smooth easy process, typically requiring visits to many different websites. What I have in mind can be partially created now with extensive collection of bookmarks, carefully organized, and data plugged into a spreadsheet or simple existing trip planner, but that usually takes more time that it's worth. There needs to be a better way to capture that info and present it to users in an interface designed to handle it.
GoneNomad
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpadesFlush
I like the idea of an app successor to S&T/AR.

But I am daunted by the scope of design.

I might be tempted to contribute to such a program.

Right now, I tend to use Google maps and concurrently S&T/AR. Neither is faultless so this is a sort of hedge strategy.
Ironically, MapQuest used to have several features in the "classic" version that were very useful to HFTs
(here's one: traffic cameras):

But they botched the implementation by making the camera image WAY TOO SMALL
and providing no way to see anything other than the default view, like this one:


The thing is, "traffic cameras" have another even more important use in the winter: road conditions, for which a HFT will want to see THIS view (at the same location as above):

Anyone who has been there and done that as many times as I have knows that a quick glance at a picture like this is better than a weather report.

Both WYDOT and the Nat'l Weather Service provide a way to see these camera images in near-real-time:
http://www.wyoroad.info/highway/webcameras/I25WyoHill/I25WyoHill.html
http://www.weather.gov/riw/cms_webcams_qview_i25
But neither shows them ON A MAP the way MapQuest "classic" does (but only until they pull the plug on that site). It sure would be a lot faster and easier to click on a camera link right in your trip plan (and/or the map of your planned trip) rather than having to hunt for the correct links on external sites that show location by informal description rather than geocoordinates or a point on a map. Some states (like Idaho) DO show cameras on a pretty detailed map that's a big improvement over what they had previously (which is now their 'low-bandwidth' version)

So the info is out there, available to the public, and getting better.

Yet the links to the cameras are gone in the newest version of MapQuest, which among other idiotic changes, also moved "Fast Food" from being a subcategory of restaurant, into a "+More" list between "Auto Repair" and "ATMs" WTF!?

I just checked BING maps (which admittedly I often don't do because I keep forgetting that it exists!). Bing does show the same cameras that MapQuest Classic shows... and with the same flaw: you only see a small thumbnail of the FIRST image at any location, no way to see a larger one (there should be a hyperlink to the real images on the DOT site), and even worse than MapQuest, the camera icons are really hard to see on the map without zooming way in.

Add up enough flaws like that and the feature is useful only for the company's bragging rights, much moreso than for actual users, who will end up needing to fetch the real images directly in order to know what the road condition really is.

Google has done some of the same things. For example, it's possible to create complex trip routes in google's "My Maps" but you cannot use them for the type of route map that the Android google Maps/Nav can navigate. And for most users, it's hard to understand the difference between "My Maps" and the "regular maps" with the "new" google maps introduced a couple years ago (which also greatly impaired the way many people used street view, though they did finally restored most of that functionality). Google has a problem with trying too hard to make things so simple that they end up making them a loooot more complicated!


I guess my point here is, they aren't even heading in the right direction... which is ironic, considering that these are tools to provide literal maps. Their development roadmap is flawed because too many people who don't know enough about real-world needs are driving that development.
Attached Images
mapquest-classic-traffic-cameras.jpg   mapquest-1-example.png  
SpadesFlush
Nice run-down on things out there.

Unfortunately, there are many different types of navigators. Right now, Google maps seems to be aimed at what is undoubtedly the largest segment: those who are "here" and just want to get there, A to B. The other end of the spectrum is the HFTs as you call theme. In between, there are migratory travelers, getting from, say, Roxboro, Mass to Tampa, FL in the fall and back in the spring. I am in probably the smallest sector where I have one-off trips that tend to be like New York City to Corning to Buffalo to Toronto to Milwaukee to Minneapolis to Chicago to Columbus, IN, to Pittsburgh and then back to NYC. People in their right minds do not travel like that.

Extended route planning on a pocket device requires super-human dedication and commitment that I doubt any app can supplant. For many years, I have been planning trips on my 24" monitor and transferring the route file to a 5"-screen device for in-car nav. That was not perfect but it worked. Now with Google Maps via an Android mobile, I transpose the stops from a desktop-generated route to Android Calendar entries with embedded location data. Then, I let the Calendar program in Agenda mode sequence the stops. So in effect, I am always in A-to-B mode as far as Google Maps is concerned. There is no map or route to save in Google Maps. This is pretty good if on-the-fly adjustments are made either with re-ordering stops or making detours because Google is always self-correcting. All of this depends, however, on the availability of three things: a reliable and continuous power supply; mobile data telephonics availability; and access to a GPS signal. Sod's Law being what it is assures that one of the above will not be available when it is most needed.

As for links to things like road condition cameras I can accept that that is useful to some drivers who are well-equipped with mobile displays. Anyone like myself with only a pocketable device would find that sort of thing well out of reach. And there is only so much one can do while driving.
GoneNomad
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpadesFlush
Unfortunately, there are many different types of navigators. Right now, Google maps seems to be aimed at what is undoubtedly the largest segment: those who are "here" and just want to get there, A to B.
Very true. And they've siphoned off most of those who might have (in the past) have bought programs like S&T, thus making it less cost-effective for anyone to develop an S&T replacement. Any effort at that would have to get it right the first time, and do it very efficiently. That will never happen as long as companies that have map data (like MapQuest, etc.) have so little understanding of user needs that they don't ever ask for the type of experience needed to do that (for example, MapQuest's career opening never mention needing any any experience in trip planning, mapping or navigation, believe it or not)


Quote:
Originally Posted by SpadesFlush
Extended route planning on a pocket device requires super-human dedication and commitment that I doubt any app can supplant...
That's why part of my supposition is that any trip planner that will meet the needs of HFTs will just about have to run on Windows. It could be based on a browser, and therefore work on other OS too. That's the approach used on Furkot, which uses GoogleMaps APIs.

It would be great to have mobile device apps too, to assure easy importation of trip plans, but the reality is that actually creating complex trip plans on a 5" screen (regardless of the res.) is an exercise in futility.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpadesFlush
Now with Google Maps via an Android mobile, I transpose the stops from a desktop-generated route to Android Calendar entries with embedded location data. Then, I let the Calendar program in Agenda mode sequence the stops. So in effect, I am always in A-to-B mode as far as Google Maps is concerned. There is no map or route to save in Google Maps. This is pretty good if on-the-fly adjustments are made either with re-ordering stops or making detours because Google is always self-correcting.
I have to admit I'm not familiar with using Android Calendar along with google maps. Sounds like it works OK. But in the end it still amounts to cobbling together different general-purpose tools (which I've done myself many times) to do a task that would be easier if a good task-specific tool was available. It's like using an assortment of Microsoft Office products for graphic design/publication projects, when what is really needed is Illustrator, InDesign or QuarkXPress.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpadesFlush
As for links to things like road condition cameras I can accept that that is useful to some drivers who are well-equipped with mobile displays. Anyone like myself with only a pocketable device would find that sort of thing well out of reach...
...even the high-res road images are no more than 1280x720, which is within the capability of a typical 5" mobile device, as long as the UI allows the user to expand to full screen.


Quote:
Originally Posted by SpadesFlush
And there is only so much one can do while driving...
...which is why it must be REALLY easy to access the info needed, preferably with just one click/tap.
GoneNomad
Here's an example of what's possible with google maps, to work around its lack of category buttons (like mapQuest has):
https://www.google.com/maps/search/gas+station
https://www.google.com/maps/search/fast+food
These bookmarks work around the location the user's map is centered on,
and it's easy to see how an interface could be built around other google maps search terms, making it easier for users to find the info they need.

...and not just google maps search terms, either. Even the traffic camera links could be correlated with their map position and turned into a set of URLs.

But it's not reasonable to expect users to do all this work to plan one trip.
It's analogous to the POI lists maintained by sites like POI-Factory.

I can see a way to do this, and package it into an easier-to-use interface. Of course the data & links would need to be tested and updated regularly. That would encourage users to pay a subscription, to avoid having to do that themselves.
Ken in Regina
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpadesFlush
I am in probably the smallest sector where I have one-off trips that tend to be like New York City to Corning to Buffalo to Toronto to Milwaukee to Minneapolis to Chicago to Columbus, IN, to Pittsburgh and then back to NYC. People in their right minds do not travel like that.
Are you saying I'm not in my right mind???

Quote:
Extended route planning on a pocket device requires super-human dedication and commitment that I doubt any app can supplant.
Well, that's not entirely true. When I was doing the multipoint route testing I reported on in the Furkot thread one of the tests I did was to create the test route directly in ALK CoPilot on my 4.7" Nexus 5 Android phone. If I recall correctly it had at least 8 points in the route to force it where I wanted to go (simulating a motorcycle trip where I stay on paved roads but avoid major highways over a >1500km one-way trip).

It was dead simple, truly.

1. It starts by asking you to add a stop.
2. From there on you just tap the "Add Stop" button to keep adding points along the way.
3. Each time you tap the "Add Stop" button you get a list that includes the following:

Address
My Places (your personal waypoints)
Points of Interest
Current Location (if you have the GPS turned on and a fix)
Contact (very handy!)
Pick on Map (if you need to force a point directly on the map)
Coordinates

Not much you can't do with that. When you select any of them it has a dialog or usage method that makes it pretty easy. For instance, in the Address dialog it offers the "City" field first then the actual address field next. If all you want is the City/town, you just hit the "Skip" button when the address field comes up. If you are doing the full address you just type it all into the address field. None of the "House number", then "Street name", etc. stuff that's fairly common in such dialogs.

4. If you want to reorder points in the list you just drag any point up and down into the desired position in the list. It doesn't get much simpler than that.

5. Once you think you have the list you want you tap the Calculate Route button and it shows you the route on the map. On that screen there's an "Alternate" button that allows you to see at least two alternate routes.

6. You can name and save routes and you can edit them on the fly any time you want.

I honestly wouldn't have the slightest hesitation to use it for complex route planning on a trip of any length or complexity. However, that is still strictly the navigation portion. It does not do a lot more. The only other things it offers are to:

A. Optimize the stops, and
B. Calculate fuel costs (put in the average fuel consumption of your vehicle, the average price per [litre/gal/whatever], and select the currency to use).

So I would have to use other tools for proper "trip" planning. I don't do a lot of that. Sometimes we have a [relatively] fixed schedule so I might pick and book motels in advance. But I've always viewed that as sort of a separate activity anyway. Usually we decide about mid-day where we want to end up for the night and book our motel by mid-afternoon. We usually wing it for restaurants based on where we are when we get hungry and what's available versus what we feel like eating.

Many of our trips are through territory we've passed through before so I have a fairly comprehensive list in MS OneNote of favorite eateries and sleeping places as well as those to avoid at all costs.

The only other thing we do for trip planning is places to see if it's got some sightseeing involved. Again, I've always treated that as a separate planning activity so I fully expect to use tools that are optimized to that.

I actually do a lot of my trip planning in MS OneNote. Well, not planning so much as recording. That's where I record the results of any research I'm doing for the trip in question. Any trip plan could include the names, addresses, dates, and prices, of any motels we plan to use or already have booked in advance (along with the confirmation number). If there are sightseeing stops, they will also be listed with all relevant information like address, admission prices, hours of operation, etc. If it's an entertainment event that has a schedule associated, that will be in there, often in the form of a poster that I've cut/pasted from the event's web site.

That's the beauty of using a tool like OneNote for the planning: you just cut/paste the stuff as you go along, then it's easy to edit it into something useful for the trip.

Quote:
All of this depends, however, on the availability of three things: a reliable and continuous power supply; mobile data telephonics availability; and access to a GPS signal. Sod's Law being what it is assures that one of the above will not be available when it is most needed.
This is another thing I love about CoPilot Android on my phone or tablet. It already has the full map and POI database (of North America in my case) on the device, as well as being able to use my Contacts for routing. The phone or tablet will run happily forever off the USB lighter socket adapter in the vehicle. Or, if I have to walk, I always carry a spare USB auxillary power supply (shirt pocket size) in my luggage that will run the phone continuously for at least a couple of days. So all I need is to turn on the GPS and I'm good to go anywhere I please.

If I can't get a GPS signal then the entire discussion is moot.

There's no electronic navigation possible and it's back to paper maps. However, I can still look at my list of stops and the route itself displayed on CoPilot's map. So it's not entirely useless even without GPS.

...ken...
GoneNomad
If CoPilot had a full-blown Windows trip planner (like they apparently did several versions back), I'd be all for it, especially since they are about the only viable alternative that provides truck & RV specific routing.

My problem with handing off a trip planned in one app/website (e.g.: google or Bing) to a nav app from another company (e.g.: CoPilot) is that the maps aren't the same and most likely the routing won't be the same either.


MS OneNote is another one that's off my radar but probably should not be. Some time ago, I saw a youtube video of a guy using OneNote for doing trip research & planning. Recreational trips are usually more exploratory, involving more research, whereas business trips (including truckers) put more emphasis on planning & scheduling. Most RVers have more schedule flexibility.

As for CoPilot being the answer to not needing mobile data availability, that's true, but that's true of MS Maps too:

Microsoft does seem to have learned from google's reluctance to turn their map data loose.



Ken...
http://www.laptopgpsworld.com/5549-windows-10-map-app#post48734
I'm guessing that by now you've tried the Windows 10 Map app. If so, lately?
Have you found it lacking?

The ironic thing (if WinMaps manages to do some things better than google) is that there are hardly any Win10 non-phone devices with built-in GPS, and the ability top connect any of the many available external GPS receivers is dependent upon a patch created by a nearly unknown 3rd party developer.
Ken in Regina
GoneNomad,

A number of things have happened since I posted that note. First, I've given my Surface Pro 1 to my daughter who has decided to go back to university and needed something portable. (Pretty hard to just run out and buy a new computer when you have three kids, a mortgage, and tuition to deal with!)

So I no longer have any portable Windows devices available to test navigation.

However, I have no doubt it will work as advertised to take you from point A to point B.

The question is its planning capabilities. That brings us to the second thing. I did a quick test back then to see if it could do multipoint routes. It couldn't. So I didn't bother to check anything else. I don't care how well it does other things if it only routes A to B.

I just checked the latest release version on the Windows 10 Anniversary Edition and I still can't find any way to do more than A to B with it. I also just checked the next version in the latest Insider Edition (Build 14955, installed yesterday) and it's still limited to A to B.

So, yes, it's easy/trivial to download map segments to use offline. That's a big plus. But without multipoint routing it holds no interest for me.

Having said that, if there's anything in particular that you would like me to look at in it, I would be happy to do so.

...ken...
SpadesFlush
Quote:
Originally Posted by GoneNomad
Here's an example of what's possible with google maps, to work around its lack of category buttons (like mapQuest has):
https://www.google.com/maps/search/gas+station
https://www.google.com/maps/search/fast+food
These bookmarks work around the location the user's map is centered on,
and it's easy to see how an interface could be built around other google maps search terms, making it easier for users to find the info they need.
The search you cannot do in Google Maps is a search around a route, or around a route segment, or around a route point which S&T/AR can do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken in Regina
Are you saying I'm not in my right mind???
No one who wishes to self-identify with my cohort merits an apology.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken in Regina
Well, that's not entirely true. When I was doing the multipoint route testing I reported on in the Furkot thread one of the tests I did was to create the test route directly in ALK CoPilot on my 4.7" Nexus 5 Android phone. If I recall correctly it had at least 8 points in the route to force it where I wanted to go (simulating a motorcycle trip where I stay on paved roads but avoid major highways over a >1500km one-way trip).

It was dead simple, truly.
I defer to your wisdom on ALK CoPilot. I have no experience with the product.

My routes can easily involve 50 or more stops, if that would be a factor. Also, many of my routes are in Europe.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken in Regina
I actually do a lot of my trip planning in MS OneNote.
That's interesting. I do not use OneNote for anything; it is off my radar screen. HOWEVER, your discussion prompts me to think about using Google Contacts the way I perceive you to be using OneNote. A "Contact" does not have to be a person as I have been thinking by default but it could be a hotel, a bar and lounge, a museum or, I suppose just about anything. Then, Google Maps or Google Calendar would be able to find it. When I am planning a trip, I do a lot of cutting and pasting from sources such as Wikipedia and I could do that with Contacts. Contact Groups can be created (Hotels, Bars, Museums, etc.) to keep things organized without bloating one's Contacts folder.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken in Regina
The phone or tablet will run happily forever off the USB lighter socket adapter in the vehicle.
My phone will not run "happily forever" on the USB lighter socket adapter. It seems that it uses more power than the adapter can supply and will run out of juice by the end of the day if the GPS is on full time or if I am not careful. I will accept that this is my personal hardware problem. I also have auxillary USB power sources but I fear that is not enough.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken in Regina
If I can't get a GPS signal then the entire discussion is moot.
In heavily-leafed environments or in thick cloud cover, I can have transient GPS loss especially on a phone. Built-in car systems seem to be more robust in my limited experience in this regard.

This has been a useful discussion for me. My big take-away is to consider augmenting my current methods with the further step of using Google Contacts for POIs and route stops. I have no route plan in construction right now but I can see a process of creating a set of Contacts with relevant cut-and-paste inserts and URL links, sequencing the stops using Calendar entries that have references to both the Contacts and to their locations, and then using Google Maps for on-the-road navigation. I am not ready to put S&T/AR on the shelf completely, however, as I still see it as useful in optimizing routes.
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