I hate traffic! GPS to the rescue?

Tom Keating : VoIP & Gadgets Blog
Tom Keating
CTO
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I hate traffic! GPS to the rescue?

I hate traffic. No, let me rephrase that. I HATE traffic! Connecticut's I-95 corridor from Bridgeport to Greenwich is ranked as having traffic in the nation. I know for a fact that commuting on I-95 has knocked off at least 5 years of my lifetime - not to mention the years I have sat idling in standstill traffic, wasting gallons of fossil fuel, polluting the environment, and the increased blood pressure incurred by cursing that guy who just cut me off just to advance 3 car spaces in 5 mph traffic

You know what I hate even worse? Those damn radio traffic reports! They're absolutely useless! Just when I thought I found a good radio station to give me a heads-up on traffic delays, I am always sorely disappointed. Here's a typical traffic report: "Thing are a little bit heavy by exit 30. There will be slight breaks in the traffic until you reach exit 25 with a slight slowdown caused by a fender bender over on the right shoulder. I-95 is pretty smooth sailing with a touch of the brakes by exit 40."

Basically, this traffic report tells me nothing. It's all generalities with no real indication if I should take an alternate route. In fact, this last comment "just a touch of the brakes" comment happened this morning on the way to work. It wasn't a "touch of the brakes" - try "just a touch of the gas pedal every 30 seconds!" since traffic was crawling. Had the traffic report given me an "estimated speed" or some sort of "traffic jam factor" I could have taken back roads or an alternate highway. But alas, the only time traffic reports really help me is if there is a major accident.

Here's my solution. Why not use GPS technology combined with vehicle tracking? Already on the road there are millions of GPS units installed on cars and trucks. While most GPS units are one-way (no vehicle tracking), many do have vehicle tracking, such as OnStar which is installed on probably thousands of vehicles that could be used to calculate the average speed on any given road.

Now, I know privacy advocates would probably scream bloody murder at the idea of letting someone "track" their vehicle, but there are ways around the privacy issue. What if the owners of GPS-enabled cars "opted in" to allowing a third-party traffic monitoring company track their vehicle anonymously to determine traffic patterns real-time? As an incentive, the GPS service provider (OnStar) could offer a discount if you opt-in to letting them track the speed/location of your vehicle. Service providers can "sell" the traffic data to radio stations for accurate traffic reports, or even back to the people they have "opted in".

Of course, "speeders" may be wary of letting someone track their speed, but I'm sure there is way of "anonymizing" the data and only keeping "realtime" data for 1-3 seconds (just enough to calculate average speed) before deleting it - this way law enforcement can't subpoena driving information. Actually, since each GPS waypoint is "anonymous", it won't matter.



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