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9/13/2006
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MapQuest Driving Directions Find Voice

MapQuest Navigator provides audible turn-by-turn voice directions from the phone handset using GPS. Users download a Java application to the phone and type in the destination.

People who want to hit the ground running the moment they get off an airplane and through the rental car line in an unfamiliar city will appreciate advancements made in voice-response driving directions for cellular phones.

MapQuest, an AOL LLC subsidiary, launched a service on Tuesday through Sprint at the CTIA Wireless IT and Entertainment 2006 conference in Los Angeles.

MapQuest Navigator will set users back about $9.99 per month, the equivalent of about three Starbucks' Latts. MapQuest Wireless General Manager Alan Beiagi said Cingular, Verizon and others could also offer the service soon.

"Today, the service is offered through a subscription, but as the mobile business model evolves and consumers adapt to mobile advertising, local ads could become an option," Beiagi said. "Being able to tie the driving direction into local advertising could become a huge market."

MapQuest Navigator provides audible turn-by-turn voice and visual directions with GPS from the phone handset by downloading the Java application to the phone and typing in the destination. The technology is based on the Mobile Optimized Navigation Data from Telmap.

MapQuest Navigator can intuitively search and locate addresses and intersection or zip codes, including "points of interest" category search capabilities.

It also downloads enough information about the route, so if a driver makes a wrong turn, the application has enough information to make the necessary corrections in the route without going back to the server for more information.

The application works even as the consumer receives or makes a phone call. "We're also evaluating a number of traffic feeds that could alert drivers about construction, delays and incidents," Beiagi said. "We want the mobile application to compliment the online application."

MapQuest.com had 52.6 million unique visitors in August 2006, up 12 percent from the year-ago month, according to ComScore Media Metrix.

MapQuest Navigator will eventually integrate with MapQuest.com, so consumers can plan and research their trip from the PC, save the information, and then access it from their cellular phone, Beiagi said.

Consumers could also see predictive analytics integrated into the cellular services. The predictive traffic information would look at historical traffic patterns for a particular street to tell the driver, for example, at 2 P.M. the day prior to Labor Day it could take an extra 20 minutes when taking the route requested.

Although the application is sophisticated, MapQuest isn't the only downloadable GPS turn-by-turn driving application. Telenav Inc. in August launched a similar service for the Research In Motion BlackBerry.

TeleNav GPS Navigator 5.0 for mobile phones provides U.S. consumers full-color, three dimensional moving maps, similar to those seen on MapQuest Navigator.

Voice-enabled mobile search will continue to evolve. Venture-backed startup Promptu is trialing voice search, Promptu Spoken Search, for the mobile phone. The company demonstrated the application Tuesday night at MobileFocus at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles.

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