"Smarter Traveler" App Manages Traffic Flow

IBM, along with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and California Center for Innovative Transportation at the University of California, Berkeley, announced a new effort to develop an intelligent transportation solution in managing traffic flow.

The application, accessible through compatible smart phones, will provide predictive traffic patterns to drivers in order to help them avoid congestion. The tool will also be useful for transportation agencies and city planners in proactively designing, managing and optimizing transportation systems, the press release states.

The application works by first learning your travel hours and patterns over a duration of time. Once adapted to your usual routine, the application sends you notifications before you leave for your daily commute. The application also sends recommended travel routes and alternative modes of transit, which, in addition to easing congestion, can also encourage the use of public transit and reduce greenhouse emissions.

According to Fast Company’s Ariel Schwartz, “Instead of slogging through the traffic, your phone recommends that you drive halfway to work, park in the BART parking lot, and take the subway system the rest of the way. If you leave now, you’ll make your way through traffic just in time to catch the next train to work.”

John Day, an IBM Researcher working on the project, emphasizes the predictive aspect of the technology as its main advantage in comparison to other traffic information in the industry. “GPS-equipped mobile devices can give us up-to-minute traffic information, which is great sometimes, but what we really care about, what we really focused on in the Smarter Traveler project was getting that information 30 or 40 minutes in advance rather than waiting until you’re already stuck in traffic,” Day says in a video interview.

Existing road sensors and mobile phone GPS systems provide the data for the application’s predictive analysis. “Analytics enable us to take all of those data points and build a historical database for how traffic behaves and make real-time predictions,” Day explains in an interview with Fast Company. “So if one particular slowdown in a particular spot correlates with slowdowns in other spots, we can estimate that corresponding slowdowns will occur right after that.”

Currently, the project is still in its pilot phase and is only available to Bay Area commuters.

Click here to learn more about the Smarter Traveler.

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