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Monday, 15 September, 2008

Elevation Chart For Google Maps
(with comments)

While Pamn's daughter and family/critters were making her way across the country, I had an idea for a new feature for Google Maps: an elevation chart.

It should be very do-able. After you map out a route, click a button and see a chart that shows the elevation changes on the vertical axis, and miles on the horizontal axis. Not surprisingly, my idea is far from original. I found lots of examples of elevation charts.

I made a crude elevation chart for the Moving To Virginia trip.

This chart has two problems. The points on the horizontal axis are fixed-distance. In reality, they aren't (they drove varying number of miles per day). The other problem is that it doesn't show the detail for each line segment.

I suspect that GPS devices can also do it. So why not Google Maps?


  1. By Volt. Comment posted 15-Sep-2008 @05:45pm:
    Even better, how about a real time manifold transformation that instead of linear space shows distance as driven or distance as flyable via commerical airline schedules. If you want to get a little advanced you could map time too, based on speed limits, airline schedules and flight times.

    This would be useful because the map would be linear in terms of your actual travel experience.

    It would be easy to do with Excel charts (graphs).
  2. By Matt H. Comment posted 15-Sep-2008 @06:20pm:
    That would indeed be cool, J-walk. There are some mashups that include elevation. I've used the one at http://www.bikely.com to map bike routes and then get an elevation profile.

    It should be fairly straightforward to map out a driving route.

    Note that it's not going to be perfect though, because it's using a digital representation of the terrain (not the roads). So when you go over a canyon on a bridge, the elevation profile will go down then up again. When you go through a tunnel, it will go up and then down.

    This is because it's grabbing an elevation value based on the average of the surrounding terrain rather than the actual roadway.
  3. By J-Walk. Comment posted 15-Sep-2008 @06:24pm:
    Note that it's not going to be perfect though, because it's using a digital representation of the terrain (not the roads).

    Good point. But I'd gladly accept that limitation.
  4. By Volt. Comment posted 15-Sep-2008 @06:36pm:
    Why don't you program cell phones to use their GPS chips to record their geo-spatial coordinates at frequent intervals, pedal around your favorite trails and dump the collected information into a mapping program. Maybe capture some pictures or video to make it real. Use extrapolation techniques to stitch the the pictures onto the four dimensional cartesian plane created by the GSP coordinates.

    Try using Photosynth, it's free.
  5. By Minderbinder. Comment posted 15-Sep-2008 @06:50pm:
    The lowest point in Colorado is higher than the highest point in Pennsylvania. Just had to share that.
  6. By Phred. Comment posted 15-Sep-2008 @07:26pm:
    Try http://gmap-pedometer.com.

    You use Google maps as normal, record some points on the map, and you get distance and can also get an elevation chart.
  7. By J-Walk. Comment posted 15-Sep-2008 @07:44pm:
    Interesting link, Phred. Seems to work only for short distances though.
  8. By Volt. Comment posted 15-Sep-2008 @07:50pm:
    Try this, it covers more space:
    http://www.google.com/moon/
  9. By MAPLE LEAF. Comment posted 15-Sep-2008 @07:55pm:
    Not much useful information there...
  10. By major_danny. Comment posted 15-Sep-2008 @08:19pm:
  11. By Doug. Comment posted 15-Sep-2008 @09:58pm:
    If they'd gone over the mountain (8% road grade) in El Paso instead of around they would have reached 1 mile high (5280 feet).
  12. By Snag. Comment posted 16-Sep-2008 @05:19am:
    I am reading this with much interest.

    Got a Garmin (Colorado) GPS as a gift recently and would like to pre-load it with hiking trails of my choice (SE Australia, and later Dartmoor / Cornwall). The thing records altitude, but it would obviously better to have this information beforehand, for planning (esp. at my age). I also use Google Earth a lot and would like to integrate the two where possible.

    The Popsci magazine site has a recent GPS article with a couple of interesting links on this topic.
  13. By Kashmarek. Comment posted 16-Sep-2008 @05:57am:
    I have a Garmin (Phoenix) and I don't think I can trust the elevation reading that is recorded. When I leave my driveway, it shows one value for elevation, but upon return to my driveway, the car is higher or lower in elevation, by several feet (more than the 1 meter accuracy).

    Also, the maps are wrong. The unit is one year old and the highway I travel was changed 4 years ago to a 4 lane road, yet the unit and computer based representation still only shows the old 2 lane road. I suspect they must pay fees to get updated maps and they aren't about to do that.
  14. By wally the duck. Comment posted 16-Sep-2008 @05:58am:
    Somewhere, though not on the internet, there exist plan/profile drawings for probably every foot of the roads they drove. That's what civil engineers who design roads do.
  15. By Ice Giant 37. Comment posted 16-Sep-2008 @06:23am:
    It looks like Arkansas was the low point of the journey.
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