Drivers who use a traffic information app to determine their best route just might get help from the city they’re navigating.
Most people now use some form of automated mapping and navigation in city traffic. Smartphone apps and GPS devices such as TomTom and Garmin calculate the best route from A to B based on the use of fast roads, mostly highways. They direct drivers without any other consideration. Once the route has been determined, changes in road conditions are not taken into consideration.
Now, cities such as Barcelona and Madrid are offering real time traffic updates for use with services such as Google Maps, allowing the app to calculate the best route to use at different times of the day, based on historic data.
The next logical step is to allow city traffic services to interact with the apps in real time to suggest alternative routes, using traffic information to help drivers avert closed roads, traffic jams, and potential traffic disruptions. This idea is already on the planning board of the Barcelona IT office, where they develop the applications for city services.
This plan offers benefits not only to users, but potentially to cities as well. It provides a good opportunity to turn apps into efficient civic information systems. Not only can drivers avoid unnecessary delays, but cities can experience less congestion as cars are diverted to other routes.
Allowing cities to broadcast information to navigation apps also can help municipalities proactively manage traffic more efficiently. The system can send different routes to different drivers based on their position to divide traffic in order not to congest another route.
One example of a traffic app based on city data is ClearPath. This app was designed by Cyrus Shahabi of the University of Southern California, and is provided by Los Angeles County. It uses the data collected by 9,000 sensors located across the LA metro area, and it analyzes traffic patterns based on over two years of historic data.
You can see more background on ClearPath in the video below:
Unlike other navigation systems that only respond to current traffic conditions, ClearPath allows a driver to enter in advance the specific date and time when he wants to leave, and it will give the fastest route. If there is an accident on that route and the app forecasts that the road will be clear by the time the driver reaches that area, then no alternate route is suggested.
“My problem is that the traffic changes as you drive,” Shahabi says. “They change in front of you. Hence, we need an algorithm that accounts for all these changes before you even start your commute.”
The designers of ClearPath hope to license this new technology to firms that already have navigation systems, such as Google and Apple. If more apps like these catch on in other cities, the result could be easier commutes for many drivers, as well as a dramatic shift for the better in urban traffic patterns.
— Pablo Valerio, International Business & IT Consultant