The use of consumer GPS-enabled phones as probes to gather traffic data has been recently highlighted by Mobile Millennium, a project run by Nokia Research center (Palo Alto), NAVTEQ and the Californian transportation authority, Caltrans. However, this type of technology is already in use in Russia today. GPS Business News interviewed with Maria Laufer, the head of the Yandex.Maps service, a leading mapping portal operating such as service.
GPS Business News: Can you give us a bit of background about Yandex?
Maria Laufer: To speak shortly, Yandex operates Russia’s largest internet search engine and are a leading Russian internet and technology company. During the first six months of 2008, our search engine was the largest in Russia, accounting for approximately 54% of all search traffic, according to Liveinternet.ru. Over that same time period, our portal generÂ¬ated approximately 3.3 billion page views per month. Today we have over 1,200 employees.
GPS BN: When did you start Yandex.Maps?
ML: Yandex.Maps was launched in 2004. At the very beginning, the service provided its users with detailed maps (up to a specific house number) of Moscow and the Moscow region, Saint-Petersburg and Kiev as well as with the maps of Russia and Europe. As of today, we have dozens of maps and satellite images, including the World map in Russian. In 2007, we launched Yandex.Maps mobile application which lets our users to search for a specific street and house number, view satellite images and traffic situation straight from a mobile device.
GPS BN: You have a mobile application that allows to send and receive traffic information, can you explain me how it works and how many users you have?
ML: This March, Yandex announced the launch of its Traffic 2.0 program aimed at gathering and aggregating user-generated data about traffic situation in city. Within the program, participating drivers automatically report traffic conditions in a real time mode. To participate in the program, any driver with a GPS enabled mobile device should download Yandex.Maps mobile application and indicate that he is fine with providing data about his speed and location to Yandex mapping service. The info will be traced automatically from his device to the system.
After being automatically processed, aggregated data from all the program participants appear on the Yandex traffic map where red segments indicate traffic jams, yellow segments – lightly crowded streets and green – clear roads. All mobile application users can see this traffic map. The more people participate in the program, the more exactly the traffic situation is demonstrated; and more and more drivers join the program.
When the number of the program participants becomes crucial, we start translating these user-generated data into the Yandex.Maps traffic monitoring service on the web. As for today, Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Ekaterinburg and Kiev Traffic Maps process drivers’ reports.
Every day, hundreds of thousands of people use Yandex.Traffic on the web and dozens of thousands on their mobile devices.