The Washington Post

Report: D.C. drivers use GPS most often

If you ever go for a drive around the area and get the feeling that people don’t know where they’re going, you might be onto something. A new report says that Washington residents are the most frequent users of mobile GPS guidance in the country.

The report was released Thursday morning by TeleNav, a provider of location-based services with more than 20 million paying subscribers.

D.C. residents were the most frequent users of GPS technology last year, and their counterparts in Maryland and Virginia weren’t far behind, according to TeleNav’s data. Drivers in the nation’s capital averaged nearly three times as many GPS-aided trips as the residents of Montana, where people were least frequently turning to their navigational aids. Maryland, which topped the list during last year’s inaugural report, fell to second, while Virginia came in fifth. Georgia and California took the third and fourth spots.

This is based on TeleNav’s numbers and doesn’t account for people who use other GPS devices or, if they still exist, printed maps. The California-based company primarily provides GPS for cell phones, with searches and navigation available for AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. The study determined the jurisdiction associated with users by their area codes.

The data also shows what people were searching for and where they wanted to go. Pizza was the top food searched for last December, holding on to that spot from the year before. And people searched the most where the pizza is best: residents of Chicago led the nation in seeking that food.

Once again, Los Angeles was the city where the most GPS searches occurred during the year. Chicago residents were the most likely to turn to the GPS when trying to reroute around traffic. Baltimore made an appearance atop one category: residents of Charm City searched for gas sorted by price more than any other city.

Nationwide searches provide a glimpse into shopping habits as people still deal with a reeling economy. Wal-Mart was the top business search, according to data from last December, which is unsurprising given that it was the holiday season and people are still financially hurting. That company held its top spot for the second consecutive year, but last year’s runner-up, Starbucks, wasn’t so lucky. Target took the second spot and the coffee giant fell to third (which won’t help the company’s image problem).

The data came from searches undertaken by GPS users. A refresher on how these searches work: When you look for something, whether it’s an address, business or type of store, your request is sent to the company’s servers in Sunnyvale, Calif. The servers send options and routes back to your phone, but they also record the searches.

The information is “completely anonymous,” said TeleNav spokesman Todd Witkemper. He said the company gets a huge pool of data, which includes the numbers of searches and the area codes where searches and trips are conducted. But it’s not broken down any further, and they don’t see what phone numbers searched for what addresses or businesses, he said.

Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.


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