Finding Yourself

Corrections or additions?

This article by Douglas Dixon was prepared for the July 18, 2001

edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Manifest Technology: Getting There, with TravRoute CoPilot

by Douglas Dixon

It’s a beautiful summer day in Princeton, and the top

is down on Alain Kornhauser’s white Mercedes convertible. We’re ready

to take a ride from Herrontown Road to Hopewell, but not sure how

to get there. No problem: Kornhauser is founder and CEO of ALK


Inc., and he has brought along the new version of his TravRoute


Pocket CoPilot GPS navigation product. "I’ve put a 117,000 miles

on this car testing CoPilot," he says.

The Pocket CoPilot software is installed on Kornhauser’s Casio


PocketPC handheld, along with a database of all the local streets

throughout New Jersey and into parts of the adjoining states. The

PocketPC handheld is now clipped to his dashboard, and connected to

a small disk-shaped GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver about

three inches in diameter mounted near the windshield. Total cost to

a consumer: Under $800, including $400 to $500 for the handheld PC

and $300 for the CoPilot software and the GPS.

To tell CoPilot our destination, Alain taps a button on the handheld’s

screen to bring up a form, and then enters the "NJ" state

abbreviation by tapping on a small keyboard area at the bottom of

the display. He then taps in the first letters of "Hopewell,"

and CoPilot searches its database and displays the matching towns

in the state, so he only needs to tap once more to select it. Finally

he enters the destination street address.

This is the magic of CoPilot: it figures out the trip routing


and updates the route on the fly as you go. There’s no separate


of planning a route on the Web or on a desktop computer, and then

downloading it to the handheld. You just enter your destination,


uses the GPS system to find your current location, and it figures

out the route itself. "This is our interest," says Kornhauser,

"not planning your summer vacation on the desktop, but in-vehicle

route guidance with dynamic feedback, providing suggestions as you


So we’re heading to Hopewell to try out CoPilot. When we get in the

car, Kornhauser unclips his handheld from his belt, plugs in the GPS

unit, and slips it into the mount on his dashboard. In less than a

minute, CoPilot has sorted though the signals from several different

GPS satellites orbiting above us, and was displaying our current


As we head out of the parking lot, CoPilot advises us of the first

turn on our route ahead. The instructions: "Turn left on


Road," are displayed in large letters on the handheld’s screen,

along with an arrow to help show them at a glance. CoPilot also speaks

the instructions out loud, so you do not even need to look at the


But Kornhauser is not interested in following instructions; he has

other plans for this trip, so he turns right instead. Within five

seconds, CoPilot alerts us that we’ve gone the wrong way. Instead

of just complaining as we continue on, it is willing to accommodate

us, and pauses five seconds while it recomputes the route. Before

we reach the end of the block, it has an alternate suggestion for

us, "Turn left at Mt. Lucas Road."

This makes sense, and can get us back to the original route, but


turns right instead. CoPilot alerts us again, and then once again

recomputes a route for us. This time it suggests making a U-turn,

since there is no good turn immediately ahead. We drive merrily on,

and CoPilot continues to track our position and recompute the route.

It continues to suggest a U-turn, but since we are ignoring it, it

stops speaking the directions out loud in order not to nag at us.

As we get closer to the end of Mt. Lucas, CoPilot has a new


"Turn right on Ewing Street." This time, Kornhauser follows

its advice, and we’re headed to Hopewell again, on a different route.


Kornhauser and the TravRoute team have spent a lot of effort


the interface for this new 2.0 version of Pocket CoPilot. "We

have removed features that are too hard to use," says Kornhauser.

Pocket CoPilot is about on-the-fly in-vehicle navigation, and not

just pre-planned travel itineraries or mapping, or showing your


position as a dot on an overhead map. "Nobody knows how to read

maps anyway," says Kornhauser, "and you can’t find your place

on the small screen." Even more, "It’s just not safe; you

don’t want people reading maps while driving a car." You also

do not want to be distracted by pushing buttons to reprogram your

route as you drive. With CoPilot, you just enter the destination,

and you are done. "It improves safety," says Kornhauser.


warns of upcoming turns. You do not need to touch anything, or read


As we drive, Pocket CoPilot displays information about the next turn

in large letters, filling almost the entire screen of the handheld.

It also shows the mileage to the next turn, and the total remaining

mileage for the trip. At the bottom of the screen, it displays the

name of the road we are currently traveling on (a feature that could

make a product all by itself), and a meter showing the GPS signal

strength. The informational text is short and to the point, "Turn

right" or "Turn sharp right" or "Bear right."

It even warns when the name of the road changes ahead.

As we get within 7/10ths of a mile of the next intersection, CoPilot

speaks the instructions, and the display changes to pop up a map of

the upcoming turn. "It’s like the freeway overhead signs of the

ramp configuration," says Kornhauser. "It automatically zooms,

and is easy to read at a glance." The map shows the layout of

the intersection with an overlay of your current position, but is

not cluttered with the names of all the streets. "We get killed

on that in some reviews," says Kornhauser, "but you do not

want to be reading a map." Instead, Pocket CoPilot offers an


"Passenger" display, with an overhead map view and the ability

to tap on streets to see their names.

We’re driving along Cherry Valley Road now, and Kornhauser slows at

an intersection as he notices a driver inching out from a side street

while distracted by chatting on a cell phone. Meanwhile, CoPilot is

quietly updating our mileage until the next turn further ahead at

Mount Rose. Kornhauser soon decides that he’s in the mood for a longer

trip, and pulls over to the side of the road. He slides his handheld

off the dashboard, taps on the "Favorites" icon, and selects

"Miami, FL" from the list of destinations that he has



This is a longer trip, and Pocket CoPilot needs to do some serious

thinking. But within a minute it is done. "Turn left on Great

Road," it advises, "1253 miles to go." Kornhauser taps

the screen to review our itinerary, and then we were off again. Once

again, he turns in a different direction, and once again CoPilot


the route. The computation was as quick as before, since it only


to change the local portion of the longer route to Miami.


While the Pocket CoPilot database installed in Kornhauser’s PocketPC

had local street information only for the New Jersey region, the


also included all major cities, roads, and interstates for the entire

continental United States. As a result, CoPilot could navigate us

over local roads to the interstates, and from there to Miami or any

other general location in the U.S.

The TravRoute database for the entire continental United States is

around 2.3 gigabytes, which fits easily on a laptop, and can be even

further compressed under Windows. The local database we are using

for New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, part of Long Island, and up

to Greenwich, Connecticut is around 80 MB (million bytes). This is

too large to fit into the built-in memory of a PocketPC handheld,

which is typically specified as 16 or 32 MB (million bits), or only

2 or 4 MB. Kornhauser suggests using 128 MB flash memory cards that

can be inserted in the handheld to expand its memory. These are now

priced at around $1 per MB, so, on a long trip, you can bring along

several cards with different regions stored on them.

The Pocket CoPilot product includes a desktop application to download

selected portions of the full database. On a laptop, you can insert

the flash card in a PC card/PCMCIA adaptor, and download an entire

region in a few minutes. You select the region with the CoPilot


software by just drawing a rectangle over a map of the country, or

by selecting a city and a 50 mile radius around it, or by specifying

a trip route and including an area around the roads and stops. The

software shows the total size of the database for the selected region,

so you can fine-tune the selection to include a larger region for

a side trip, or exclude areas where you are just passing through.

"It’s a big country," says Kornhauser, "with almost 7

million miles of roads. We can take you door to door, down to a gnat’s

eyelash." The TravRoute database includes over 250,000 cites and

towns, 2 million points of interest in more than 40 categories, and

15,000 highway exits and services. Each road segment can have up to

155 associated attributes, including street names and address ranges,

as well as one-way streets and turn restrictions in over 100 metro


ALK has 15 people dedicated to maintaining and updating its database,

drawing on data sources including the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S.

Postal Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey. It also maintains

contact with many of the 3,000 counties in the U.S. to update new

roads and other changes.

ALK also receives corrections and updates from its customers, both

commercial and consumer. "The software makes it easy to report

problems," says Kornhauser. "It can log information, and


choose to share with us." ALK receives "more than a


of these customer updates a day.

Alain Kornhauser

"I was always a routes from A to B kind of guy," says


"originally from Mars and beyond, doing optimal astronomic


He was born in France, and his parents emigrated to Pittsburgh when

he was age seven. He met his future wife, Katherine, at Penn State,

and graduated in the Class of 1966 with a degree in aerospace


"I was a Sputnik kid," he says. "It had enormous


especially in the public schools, where they decided maybe science

and math were important after all."

"It was a gung ho time," he says, "almost like the dot

com excitement, but with enormously more substance. It was great to

be part of it." Out of 250 freshman who entered the program, only

26 graduated. "I wanted to be a professor," he says, "so

I needed a Ph.D.," and so he came to Princeton. He received his

Ph.D. from Princeton with the class of 1971, and he is currently a

professor of civil engineering and operations research.

"The aerospace market collapsed in 1970," he says, "so

we applied routing to people movers in cities." In the early ’70s

he and his students developed interactive graphical tools for


personal rapid transit systems and computing levels of service.

Then in 1975, New Jersey Governor Florio was looking for help with

the bankrupt railroad system in the northeast. "He called up,

and I happened to take the call," says Kornhauser. Over that


Kornhauser and his students developed a database of the railroad


and developed a final system plan, with traffic flow and economic

analysis. He worked with colleagues at MIT and Harvard, and ended

up testifying on the Conrail plan in Washington. "I’ve been 20

plus years working with the railroads," he says.


Out of this consulting work, Kornhauser started ALK Associates (named

for Alain L. Kornhauser) in 1979 ( "Doing railroad

traffic analysis was proprietary stuff," says Kornhauser, "and

advising a board of directors is not an academic activity."

Kornhauser’s wife, Katherine Kornhauser, has been president of ALK

from the beginning. She had grown up in Ewing, where her parents


at the General Motors Fisher Body plant. With her bachelor’s and


degrees from Penn State, she was a mathematical statistician at


Testing Service until 1979, when she and Alain co-founded their firm.

They have three grown children, a son who is designing server hardware

for Compaq, and two daughters, one an artist in northern Maine and

the other on the varsity women’s ice hockey team at Princeton.

During the academic year Alain spends "a few hours a week"

at ALK. "I provide the leadership for the kind of place this is,

making it a fun place to work." But, he says, "Princeton is

my number one priority." He teaches courses in transportation

planning and interactive computer graphics for real-time decision

systems. He also is part of a team of professors from engineering,

psychology, and philosophy teaching a multi-disciplinary course in

human-machine interactions.

ALK Associates first worked with transportation customers like the

Union Pacific railroad and the Ohio River Company barge system to

design systems to track and optimize the utilization of mobile assets.

"You need to anticipate where they are going to be needed, to

forecast the future," says Kornhauser.

ALK Associates was renamed ALK Technologies Inc. this February and

now has 120 employees in three general divisions: the Decision Systems

division for business consulting and fleet optimization tools for

transportation clients; the commercial PC*MILER product line for


industry routing, mileage, and mapping; and the TravRoute division

for consumer navigation and mapping products.

In the mid-’80s, "we decided we should have products," says

Kornhauser. "The trucking industry needed to compute distances

and routes in a common way between shipper and carrier." This

led to ALK’s PC*MILER product line, which is used by more than 15,000

motor carriers, shippers, and logistics companies throughout the world

( Now on version 15, the product line includes


mileage, and mapping software for North American, European, and


highways, and additional versions for Street-Level, Rail, and


Materials, and additional tools for graphical mapping, tax reporting,

and risk assessment.

"We’re the official guys," says Kornhauser. In 1998 ALK won

a five-year contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (competing

against Rand McNally, among others) as the worldwide standard distance

calculation data and software provider for DoD’s Defense Table of

Official Distances (DTOD). All North American carriers for the DoD

are bound by DTOD mileage for payment and audit purposes, and the

system has been extended to European goods movements as well.

Top Of Page

In 1995 ALK expanded from commercial to consumer products with its

TravRoute Door-to-Door brand of desktop mapping software


The commercial products computed mileage between five-digit zip codes,

but the consumer products went door-to-door, down to a street address.

"We were first with the database on one CD," says Kornhauser,

"and we sold over a half million copies." But Microsoft


the market with its Streets product, "sold at CompUSA with an

instant rebate," says Kornhauser, "for a net cost of


So ALK withdrew from retail sales three years ago, although they still

update the product.

The latest release, Door-to-Door 2000, is available in two versions.

Door-to-Door 2000 Deluxe ($29) is used to plan trips with door-to-door

directions. Door-to-Door 2000 Pro ($99) is used to organize travel

itineraries with multiple stops, and generates turn-by-turn directions

and maps, complete with mileage and drive time estimates.

But Kornhauser was interested in "going in the vehicle, so you

can know where you are every second." The CoPilot products,


in 1997, combined the TravRoute software and database with a GPS


on a laptop that could travel in a car. "It’s great in a RV,"

says Kornhauser, "but pretty geeky." A laptop is really not

a convenient tool in a car, and "the small laptops have flopped

in the U.S. market."

But the introduction of the PocketPC platform in the last year offered

the right balance of capabilities and features. "It’s somewhat

durable, with a color display and a touch screen," says


"It has one-button instant on, and a price point around $500."

Plus, the PocketPC has enough processing power to do the calculations,

unlike the Palm platform, which was designed as a simple portable

organizer. "You want your PDA to be a Personal Decision Assistant,

not just a Data Assistant," he says. On the PocketPC, CoPilot

is continually tracking the GPS signals, correlating and matching

its location to the map database, updating the display, and


recomputing the routing as needed.

The CoPilot products include CoPilot 2001 for laptops ($399), and

Pocket CoPilot for the PocketPC ($299 bundled with a GPS receiver).

They have received rave reviews from PC magazines and Popular


and have won multiple prestigious awards from the Software &


Industry Association and at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).


sold tens of thousands of copies," says Kornhauser, "and it’s

just the beginning."

The Future

Kornhauser is looking to the future as part of his research activities

at Princeton. He is co-director, of the Center for N.J. Transportation

Information & Decision Engineering (TIDE,


Research grew out of World War II," he says. "It has to do

with the big problems, Stalinesque five-year plans, military


These are enormously challenging. We have great difficulty in


things, and have seen only moderate success."

TIDE is focused on the individual, "tools for the average


says Kornhauser, "making everyday decisions about everyday things.

Providing a little help with many trivial decisions can become


TIDE is working toward a future with real-time information about


on New Jersey highways and roads, and the condition of the railroads,

and the location of all the Jersey Transit buses. "If we can


out how to make it so people will use it," says Kornhauser,


can improve lots of people’s lives."

The TIDE website makes an analogy to weather reporting, stating:


many ways, what the TIDE Center is attempting to do is similar to

what has been done in the meteorology industry in recent years (e.g.,

companies like AccuWeather and the Weather Channel). That is, start

with a publicly-provided surveillance system (NOAA satellites in the

case of meteorology, GPS satellites and loop detectors in the case

of transportation), supplement it with additional surveillance


and computer systems (local Doppler radar in the case of meteorology,

video image processing and probe vehicles in the case of


use the resulting data to make forecasts of future conditions, develop

tools to help people make better decisions in light of these


and finally distribute these tools and this information either


to the public or to a news agency."

"This is still five years away," says Kornhauser. "You

could be warned about a recent accident, and have real-time traffic

information about other roads and alternate routes, parallel tracks.

If you could just turn away from congestion, and rely on a system

like this to route you around it, that would pay for the system the

first time you used it."

"We can see how to do this in transportation," he says,


maybe we can take it to other contexts, maybe nutrition, or


The TravRoute Pocket CoPilot product is a good start in that


Driving away from the ALK offices on familiar roads, I found I already

missed the positive feedback that I was on the right road going in

the right direction. "Computing routes has been my business for

over 30 years," says Kornhauser. "I want CoPilot to help you.

It gives advice, it’s suggestive."

"I wish my boyfriend were as flexible as Pocket CoPilot,"

says a user testimonial on the TravRoute website. "I love how

it just gives you new directions if you miss the turn instead of


at you."

— Douglas Dixon

ALK Technologies Inc., 1000 Herrontown Road North,

Princeton 08540. Alain and Katherine Kornhauser, founders.


fax, 609-683-0290. Home page:

Top Of Page
Finding Yourself

If you are traveling this summer, you can use a Palm

or PocketPC handheld as a convenient portable device for accessing

maps and directions. You can take several different approaches,


on your needs and desired sophistication and cost:

Download free map images. If you are traveling to a major

city, you can download map images from the Web, and use free image

viewers like FireViewer ( to scroll and zoom through

them. You can also use free aggregator services like AvantGo


to select and download images from MapQuest. However, map image files

can use up lots of storage.

Download structured maps and routes. Instead of an image

of a map, you can download a map database, and use software to view

regions at different levels of detail. The free Vindigo city guide

( includes maps of New York City. Microsoft Pocket

Streets, bundled with PocketPC handhelds, can download portions of

maps, display points of interest, and search for places or addresses.

On the Palm platform, you can use the Rand McNally StreetFinder City

Centers software ($9.99) to download detailed maps of 35 major U.S.

cities, or StreetFinder Deluxe ($29) to select and download your own

map regions and route maps ( Rand McNally also

recently announced the Road Atlas 16 MB expansion card ($39) for the

Palm handheld. It contains map information for the 48 contiguous


States, including 12,000 cities and 640,000 miles of highways and

major roads.

Similarly, DeLorme offers the Solos map and route direction software

for the Palm ($49, Solos interfaces to other DeLorme

products to calculate travel directions and download maps. The DeLorme

products include AAA Map’n’Go and Street Atlas USA for street maps

and listings, Topo USA for topographic maps, and XMap Business for

small business routing. On wireless-enabled handhelds, Solos can also

access maps from the DeLorme website for a yearly subscription fee


Tracking with GPS. These mapping products can also


to a GPS receiver to display your current position on a map and


real-time directions along your pre-defined itinerary. Products for

the Palm include the DeLorme Earthmate GPS receiver ($159) Rand


StreetFinder GPS ($199 with software), and NAVMAN Handmap


Dynamic navigation with GPS. TravRoute Pocket CoPilot

goes beyond mapping or route display to recompute your route on the

fly. Instead of following a pre-planned itinerary, you can turn off

the path to avoid congestion or to just to explore, and be confident

that CoPilot can adjust and guide you back where you need to go. The

Pharos StreetNav product ($249), also for PocketPC, is another product

that can recompute a new route from your current location


However, it requires a separate operation to do so, instead of


the route automatically.

Corrections or additions?

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— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.

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