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01/09/2012

New GPS system could help you avoid ‘ghettos’

Have you ever followed GPS driving directions, only to end up in a shady area of town?  Sure, it may have been the shortest route, but perhaps not one you would take again.

Well, Microsoft is working to create a GPS system that would avoid dangerous areas of a city, or places with bad weather.

CBS Seattle reports that the tech company’s new patent would help users avoid an “unsafe neighborhood or being in an open area that is subject to harsh temperatures.” It's a so-called "avoid ghetto" feature.

The software would search crime statistics and weather patterns, and then find the “best” route to arrive at the desired destination. Presumably, it would be the route with the least crime and best weather.

Rather than get mugged for your phone, shoes, wallet – or all three – this technology could help users stay safe and sound in their travels.

While the patent is primarily aimed at pedestrians using smart phones, there’s nothing preventing it from helping drivers as well.

But is this patent also stigmatizing neighbourhoods, by showing people ways to avoid parts of town?

Sure, it might be for their safety, but residents in neighbourhoods with high crime rates won’t be too pleased that software is urging others to avoid their area.

The idea may be just a patent, but the International Business Times reports that this feature could wind up in a future version of Microsoft’s Windows Phone series.

GPS systems appear to have a track record for leading pedestrians and drivers astray. Once, a motorist wound up in a swamp because they relied too heavily on their GPS unit. A female pedestrian also sued Google because the company’s Maps app suggested she should walk along a four-lane roadway.

Do you think this new patent from Microsoft will be good for drivers and pedestrians? Is it going to negatively affect neighbourhoods with high crime rates?

- Maurice Cacho, MSN Tech & Gadgets

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Danny BradburyDanny Bradbury

Danny Bradbury is a technology journalist with 20 years' experience. He writes regularly for publications including the Guardian, the Financial Times, the Financial Post, and Backbone magazine. Danny also writes and directs documentaries.

Maurice CachoMaurice Cacho

Maurice Cacho is a Toronto-based journalist mixing his love for tech with a passion for news. He's also CP24's Web Journalist and appears daily on CP24 Breakfast and weekly on the channel's tech show, Webnation, discussing tech news and trends.

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