Jun 162010
 
Traffic congestion, Sao Paulo, Brazil
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Traffic avoided: Software uses road sensors, GPS and historical traffic data to predict congestion

Onboard navigation and mobile applications can tell drivers how to avoid traffic jams. Trouble is, most of the drivers are already on the road, perhaps already in the jam. But IBM is about to deploy a system that will predict traffic flow up to an hour before it occurs, giving travelers ample time to avoid trouble.

During pilot tests in Singapore, forecasts made across 500 urban locations accurately predicted traffic volume 85 to 93 percent of the time and vehicle speed 87 to 95 percent of the time. Similar results were achieved in Finland and on the New Jersey Turnpike.

The key to success is predictive modeling—software that combines real-time data from road sensors and cameras, as well as GPS transponders in taxis, with historical traffic information, roadwork conditions and weather forecasts. Each week the model recalibrates based on statistics from the most recent six weeks. It broadcasts advisories to electronic road signs and car navigation displays. The system also predicts when a congested road will return to normal flow.

IBM has signed contracts with two U.S. transportation authorities to deploy a full system, according to spokesperson Jenny Hunter. The locations will be announced soon. Singapore may commit as well and is also testing a variation that will predict bus arrival times for riders waiting at bus stops.

In each location, ongoing work will optimize the advisories. If, for example, Highway 1 is clogged and too many drivers who receive messages flock to Highway 2, it will become clogged; engineers will customize the model so it can determine whether sending the messages to only 25 or 40 percent of drivers, say, would best balance the two roads. And because a high percentage of drivers now carry cell phones, IBM is working with several telecom companies to be able to track the continually changing density of their phones along roadways, which could provide finer-grained modeling. To protect privacy, the identity of individual phones would not be disclosed.

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For Our UK Visitors:

Frixo (http://www.frixo.com/) is a road travel reporting website, that provides our users with the most up-to-date road traffic information. Our data is updated every 5 minutes using sensors placed on motorways and common A / B roads.

 

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