I’ve often found myself hungry, agitated, and creating a casualty out of the food delivery guy. Who, for some reason will always find the “correct location” 2 blocks behind my building? A simple map could have a very big impact on our lives, without our knowledge. Lo and behold, I had arrived at the entrance to my office on my first day here, with completely mud-stained pants. As the map, I had decidedly put my faith in, could not differentiate between a two-lane, six-lane, service road, or dirt path. Our maps are failing us, we need better maps for the future.
Why we need better maps
In India, navigation involves a network of informal landmarks, names that sound different due to accents that change every 200kms, & iconic buildings and roundabouts which, in all likelihood don’t exist anymore. The shortest distance from point A to point B is not the main road, but a series of by-lanes and service roads within residential areas connecting the 2 points. It’s an eccentric system, born out of the social and economic evolutions in India, & the solutions proposed by businesses challenged by this system are equally eccentric.
Just when you thought navigation was the only tricky part, we were hit with the COVID-19 pandemic. On the business side, India’s automotive and mobility sectors were the hardest hit, with the sale of automotive OEMs falling between 20%-25% in FY 2020 and FY2021. But when we look beyond the immediate challenges, the situation is not bleak. Mobility players are returning to their former strength. Ushering in of a new era of smarter vehicles that will change our commute and the way we travel forever. The demand for a smarter vehicle has adds to the argument for better-equipped maps. With delivery and last-mile logistics becoming more precise and, on the rise, and a demand for faster and more accurate customer service, remote working, and field force control we ultimately must give users more dynamic and sensitive maps.
How we’re going to make maps for the future
Vehicles are getting smarter and are able to tell us a lot more about the roads by simply driving on them. Vehicles are now able to relay information about road quality, and drive experience. So when you’re driving to the office, grumbling about the same pothole you’ve been driving over for years on end, now we have the power to gather that data, put it on a map, and put it to good use. Mapmakers like us now have access to vast volumes of anonymous aggregate data, that can be used for analysis. – this can also get updated in shorter periods of time, instead of surveying the entire city – you could do it in real-time. Maps could essentially be able to relay weather data as well.
Maps of the future would be able to lock into your location and tell you more than just traffic jams on your path. It would be able to tell you the quality of road you’re accessing, whether it’s a dirt road, stone-paved, has giant potholes, a gully, or the main road. Data from the vehicle, braking frequency, and stop times are enough to make those distinctions. A map would be able to tell you if the road ahead is blocked by construction or an accident. You should be able to visualize on your map what the average speeds are on your path, so you know what mode to drive your vehicle in. Your maps should also be able to give information on access to a number of charging stations, number of rest stops, how much charge is on the meter and how much you require for the journey, cafés restaurants for stops, and much much more!
Paving our way into 2022
With the right strategy, mobility players in India can weather the downturn, and along, bring in a new era of maps. The success of deploying more dynamic maps will require both careful attention to trends and rapid response to change and consumer demand. Those of us that take a long-term view are most likely to transform businesses, as well as the livelihoods, and potentially emerge as game-changers in the next normal.
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