Ep. 28 — Is Google Maps still offering me the best route?

Billy Lo
2 min readMar 8, 2021



I was curious to find out. Is upstart Mapbox just as good or better? Has Apple Maps improved sufficiently? What about the MapQuest which I haven’t explored in a while?

Fortunately, all of them offer their routing engines as APIs. So, it’s possible to build a comparison tool to visualize those routes on the same base map.

I brought all these 8 engines together and created SuperRoute.

Just enter your source and destination of your daily commute or weekend trips, you will be able to see the routes shown in different colors.

  1. 🟦 Google Maps — Directions API
  2. Apple Mapkit JS
  3. 🟧 MapQuest
  4. 🟩 HERE (formerly NavTEQ)
  5. 🟫 Mapbox
  6. 🟨 Esri ArcGIS
  7. 🟥 Azure Maps
  8. 🟪 openrouteservice

What have I learned en route 🚗 ?

  1. Within cities, routes generated by different engines vary a lot. Take the time to experiment and see what works for your locality.
  2. For longer trips, these engines converge to more-or-less the same route.
  3. Apple Maps have caught up to Google Maps quickly (and MapKit JS is free, but a bit slower compared to others.)
  4. MapQuest is not as popular, but the quality of the routes is pretty good.
  5. Other engines used by fleets (e.g. Here, MapQuest, Esri) has more parameters available.
  6. You don’t have to use Google if you don’t like its personalization features.
  7. I am eager to see how AWS Location Services stack up against others (It’s not available yet.)

Learning as a product owner & engineer:

  1. Be conscientious: don’t acquire data unless you really need it for users’ benefits
  2. Comparison tools have good ROI. e.g. pricegrabber.com and unhaggle.com. Their value is easy to understand and save users time (which is an important attribute.)
  3. Remember to test data entry fields with strings with quotes ‘ “ and commas.
  4. Don’t assume you need to use powerful UI framework like Angular/React/Vue. You can do a lot with plain JavaScript/CSS. The cognitive load on using sophisticated UI framework can offset its benefits.
  5. Concise writing is a high-leverage skill. Good UX depends on it.

Hope this helps when we can all travel again!

Happy coding!