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Scenic Sat-Nav Will Take You on the Prettiest Route


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Road signs in Scotland.

Working together, researchers at the University of Bremen and Hasselt University have developed an artificial intelligence system that can optimize a driving route for a specific type of scenery.

Credit: Alamy

Researchers at the University of Bremen and Hasselt University have developed Autobahn, an artificial intelligence (AI) system that can use Google Street View images to optimize a driving route for a particular type of scenery.

The researchers divided the landscape into squares with 1-kilometer sides and downloaded the Google Street View panorama from a spot on the largest road within each square, and a neural network then classified the Google Street View's scenery as forest, mountain, fields, water, a sight, or non-scenic.

To plan a route, the user provides a start and end point, a maximum travel time, and a scenery preference. For example, if the user chooses mountains, the program chooses the route with the most mountain views.

The researchers tested Autobahn on the Spanish island of Majorca, the Rhone-Alps in France, and Santa Barbara in California. The researchers conducted online surveys using images from journeys in these three settings. The Autobahn-generated route was compared to the fastest route and 24 volunteers were asked to say which route they would prefer to take; most of the volunteers said they preferred the Autobahn route.

The system is fast, effective, works with smartphones, and is scalable to large areas, according to University of Florida researcher Hartwig Hochmair.

From New Scientist
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