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More than Pretty Pictures—Aesthetics of Data Representation, Denmark, April 13–16, 2015


fun + amusement

The Google Maps Challenge — Longest Google Maps Driving Routes

Routes updated 26 Nov 2014.

contents

  1. Longest land leg
    1,601 km
    Sakha, Russia
    Magadan, Russia
    view route
  2. Longest land route
    14,096 km
    Sagres, Portugal
    Khasan, Russia
    view route
  3. Longest land route with ferries
    24,201
    Quoin Point, South Africa
    Ola, Russia
    view route

other visualizations

Let's say that you think better while driving and, occassionally, like to take a road trip to clear your mind. Maybe even take in a few sights and bring home a spoon or other collector's item.

According to Google Maps, how far could you go?

Each of the challenges below involves finding points A and B that yield the longest driving route in Google Maps. Each challenge has its own parameters, but certain rules apply to each challenge.

  • the route A→B must be generated by the Google Maps algorithm—it cannot be manually adjusted
  • the shorter of A→B and B→A must be used
  • when multiple routes are available, the shortest must be used
  • the points A and B must be towns or cities, not individual street addresses
  • avoid highways and avoid tolls options must be off

Any solution to the challenge will surely have a shorter route (not available to the routing algorithm) as well as many more longer ones (duh—it's always easy to pessimize a route).

This topic has been previously discussed on xkcd forums.

continuous updates to Google Maps — old routes unavailable, records reset

As Google Maps updates the routing network, some of the old routes are no longer available, or significantly shorter. This maps challenge page may therefore be out of date.

Don't be surprised if links to old routes show a significantly different distance, or point to a route that no longer exists. Such links, or out-dated entries, are annotated as historical.

30,000 km limit unbroken

Because of new routes through central Africa, route distances dropped by about 6,000 km. Whereas before routing avoided Congo and Algeria, they now go right through them.

historicalThe longest route used to be 33,540 km from Quoin Point, South Africa to a dirt road in Indonesia. It starts with "Head northeast toward R317." and ends with "Turn left". After Malaysia, it's mostly ferries. Unfortunately, it's gone. Also, routing in Africa is now more optimized, shortening all the trips from south Africa.

historical (Paren' no longer available as a destination) | The 30,000 km limit has been broken by a route from Paren' to Pearly Beach. This was furthered by discovering the bizarrely remote Chimchememel', Russia (e.g. from Chimchememel' to Danger Point).

historical (Uelen still not accessible) | The next milestone for a route with ferries is 32,000 km. Unless you have the money to build a road to Uelen, this new limit is a significant challenge. Interested individuals should start digging immediately.

historical Many of the interesting past examples are now deprecated. This fun 191 hour drive from Portugal to Malaysia is no longer available. Too bad. Stop off in Turkey to go to the bathroom. Pick up a few aluminum centrifuge tubes from Iran, too. That sounds like fun.

Google Maps Challenge - Longest Driving Routes / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Lisbon, Portugal to Pahang, Malaysia takes 7 days 23 hours and 15,797 km (view route)

The 20,000 km all-land route limit still stands. Africa's complex routing may provide a solution. Lack of roads in eastern Russia and blind spots in routing across China make it unlikely that a route across Europe/Asia will exceed this limit.

Blind Spots and Humor

If you play with routes in Google Maps you'll quickly notice that some parts of the world do not appear to be connected to the smarts of the routing algorithm. For example, you cannot drive from Bejing to New Delhi. These holes in the driving fabric pose a challenge in finding long routes.

historical (no more kayak routes) | Google's subtle humour can be found everywhere (though apparently not anymore, since kayaking has been removed from maps and replaced by decidedly un-funny flight routes), such as in step 9 of this Seattle to Hawaii route, which states "Kayak across the Pacific Ocean — 4,436 km". If you have endurance training, you might wish to continue kayaking to Tokyo, for another 6,243 km. For the purpose of this challenge, kayaking is not allowed.

Darién Gap

No routes from North to South America exist because of this boggy marsh.

Routing Changes

As new routes become available, long trips become shorter. For example, introduction of a route across Niger and Algeria cut the original land route with no ferry record from 18,260 km to a mere 15,576 km.

Other Google Data Munging and Visualizations

If you are interested in visualization and information, explore my global visualization of Google searches by language and find out where in the US people are searching in Chinese.

For the morbidly curious, of interest might be all the really stupid questions people ask Google.

mobile users

Google Maps routes linked to from this page do not appear to work on iPhone's Safari browser (I have not tested iPad or iPod). A "driving direction not found" error appears. Rest assured, these routes do exist, and can be viewed on a browser on a PC or Mac. Weird.

The routes below are the current answers to the challenge. Do you have a better (longer!) route? Let me know.

CHALLENGE 1—Longest Land Leg

The longest land leg is a route along the R504 between the east dock of the a/d Kolyma M56 ferry and Magadan.

Google Maps Challenge - Longest Driving Routes / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Sakha Republitis to Magadan, Russia. Roughly 20 hours exactly and 1,601 km. (view route)

challenge 1 version history

v4 route Haines Junction - Dawson Creek 1,557 km (+25 km)

v3 route Haines Junction - Farmington 1,532 km (+32 km) (submitted by David Jackson)

v2 route Haines Junction - South Taylor 1,500 km (+25 km)

v1 route Haines Junction - Charlie Lake 1,475 km

CHALLENGE 2—Longest Land Route

The longest Google Maps route that does not use ferries takes us from Sagres in Portugal to Khasan in Russia. Thanks to Pieter Vandromme for submitting this route.

Google Maps Challenge - Longest Driving Routes / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Sagres in Portugal to Khasan, Primorsky Krai, Russia. This trip is exactly 7 days and 14,096 km. (view route)

challenge 2 version history

v6 route Sagres in Portugal to Tanjung Pengelih Pengerang Johor Malaysia 16,280 km. Thanks to Jørgen Adam Holen for pointing out a better destination in Malaysia. (Google Map route no longer available)

v5 route Duyker Eiland, South Africa - Sidi Bettache, Morocco 15,594 km (+18 km) (Duyker Eiland submitted by David Jackson on xkcd) (Google map route, 12,523 km on 26 Nov 2014, significantly shorter with routing through Congo)

v4 route Pearly Beach, South Africa - Sidi Bettache, Morocco 18,260 km (+84 km) (Google map route 12,673 km on 26 Nov 2014)

v3 route Pearly Beach, South Africa - Casablanca, Morocco, 18,176 km (+2,180 km) (submitted by ElWanderer via xkcd) (Google map route 12,708 km on 24 Nov 2014)

v2 route Gibraltar - Paren', Russia 15,996 km (+602 km) (submitted by ElWanderer via xkcd) (Google map route no longer exists on 6 Jun 2013)

v1 route Gibraltar - Magadan, Russia 15,394 km (Google map route now 15,051 km on 26 Nov 2014 and now includes a 9.4 km ferry (a/d Kolyma/M56))

CHALLENGE 3—Longest Land Route with Ferries

The longest Google Maps A–B route that uses ferries. The ferry distance cannot be more than 25% of the entire trip.

This route about 460 legs and takes you from Quoin Point on Cape Agulhas to the edge of nowhere in Russia. During your voyage, you experience the endless visual monotony of sprawling Africa (keeping a wide bearth from Angola), only to end up at the sorrow at the world's end—Magadan, Russia's gulag region.

Thanks to Pieter Vandromme for submitting this route, which is a slight modification of the v2 route, which used to be 29,831 km (see history below).

Google Maps Challenge - Longest Driving Routes / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Quoin Point, South Africa to Ola, Russia. The trip takes 334 hours (14 days) and 24,201 km. (view route)

challenge 3 version history

v9 route (18 Jul 2013) Quoin Point, South Africa to Unknown Road, Indonesia 33,540 km (Google map route no longer available, Map geek Earl Higgins found this route after invalidating v7. The 33,000 km barrier is again, and legitimately, broken.)

v8 route (16 Jul 2013) Unknown Road, Indonesia to Groot Paternoster Reserve, South Africa 32,433 km (Google map route no longer available, Map geek Earl Higgins pointed out that the reverse of the v7 route is significantly shorter. This means that the 33,000 km barrier has, in fact, not been broken. Pity.)

v7 route (6 Jun 2013) Groot Paternoster Reserve, South Africa to Unknown Road, Indonesia 33,634 km (Google map route no longer available, submitted by Sue DoNym on xkcd). (33,557 on 16 Jul 2013; reverse of route is significantly shorter—see v8)

v6 route Chimchememel' Russia - Duyker Eiland, South Africa 31,766 km (+626 km) (Google map route no longer exists, submitted by David Jackson on xkcd)

v5 route Chimchememel' Russia - Pearly Beach, South Africa 31,140 km (+15 km) (Google map route no longer exists)

v4 route Chimchememel' Russia - Danger Point, South Africa 31,125 km (+692 km) (Google map route no longer exists, submitted by nerd-7hi+42e via xkcd)

v3 route Pearly Beach - Paren', Russia 30,433 km (+602 km) (Google map route no longer exists, submitted by ElWanderer via xkcd)

v2 route Pearly Beach - Magadan 29,831 km (+66 km) (Google map route, 24,191 km on 26 Nov 2014)

v1 route Bregasdorp - Magadan 29,765 km (Google map route, 24,125 km on 26 Nov 2014)

news + thoughts

Two Factor Designs

Tue 09-12-2014

We've previously written about how to analyze the impact of one variable in our ANOVA column. Complex biological systems are rarely so obliging—multiple experimental factors interact and producing effects.

ANOVA is a natural way to analyze multiple factors. It can incorporate the possibility that the factors interact—the effect of one factor depends on the level of another factor. For example, the potency of a drug may depend on the subject's diet.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Two Factor Designs. (read)

We can increase the power of the analysis by allowing for interaction, as well as by blocking.

Krzywinski, M., Altman, (2014) Points of Significance: Two Factor Designs Nature Methods 11:1187-1188.

Background reading

Blainey, P., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2014) Points of Significance: Replication Nature Methods 11:879-880.

Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2014) Points of Significance: Analysis of variance (ANOVA) and blocking Nature Methods 11:699-700.

Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2014) Points of Significance: Designing Comparative Experiments Nature Methods 11:597-598.

...more about the Points of Significance column

Nested Designs—Assessing Sources of Noise

Mon 29-09-2014

Sources of noise in experiments can be mitigated and assessed by nested designs. This kind of experimental design naturally models replication, which was the topic of last month's column.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Nested designs. (read)

Nested designs are appropriate when we want to use the data derived from experimental subjects to make general statements about populations. In this case, the subjects are random factors in the experiment, in contrast to fixed factors, such as we've seen previously.

In ANOVA analysis, random factors provide information about the amount of noise contributed by each factor. This is different from inferences made about fixed factors, which typically deal with a change in mean. Using the F-test, we can determine whether each layer of replication (e.g. animal, tissue, cell) contributes additional variation to the overall measurement.

Krzywinski, M., Altman, N. & Blainey, P. (2014) Points of Significance: Nested designs Nature Methods 11:977-978.

Background reading

Blainey, P., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2014) Points of Significance: Replication Nature Methods 11:879-880.

Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2014) Points of Significance: Analysis of variance (ANOVA) and blocking Nature Methods 11:699-700.

Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2014) Points of Significance: Designing Comparative Experiments Nature Methods 11:597-598.

...more about the Points of Significance column

Replication—Quality over Quantity

Tue 02-09-2014

It's fitting that the column published just before Labor day weekend is all about how to best allocate labor.

Replication is used to decrease the impact of variability from parts of the experiment that contribute noise. For example, we might measure data from more than one mouse to attempt to generalize over all mice.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Replication. (read)

It's important to distinguish technical replicates, which attempt to capture the noise in our measuring apparatus, from biological replicates, which capture biological variation. The former give us no information about biological variation and cannot be used to directly make biological inferences. To do so is to commit pseudoreplication. Technical replicates are useful to reduce the noise so that we have a better chance to detect a biologically meaningful signal.

Blainey, P., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2014) Points of Significance: Replication Nature Methods 11:879-880.

Background reading

Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2014) Points of Significance: Analysis of variance (ANOVA) and blocking Nature Methods 11:699-700.

Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2014) Points of Significance: Designing Comparative Experiments Nature Methods 11:597-598.

...more about the Points of Significance column

Monkeys on a Hilbert Curve—Scientific American Graphic

Tue 19-08-2014

I was commissioned by Scientific American to create an information graphic that showed how our genomes are more similar to those of the chimp and bonobo than to the gorilla.

I had about 5 x 5 inches of print space to work with. For 4 genomes? No problem. Bring out the Hilbert curve!

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Our genomes are much more similar to the chimp and bonobo than to the gorilla. And, we're practically still Denisovans. (details)

To accompany the piece, I will be posting to the Scientific American blog about the process of creating the figure. And to emphasize that the genome is not a blueprint!

As part of this project, I created some Hilbert curve art pieces. And while exploring, found thousands of Hilbertonians!